Rafa Benitez promised he’d put out a “strong” side against Fulham down in London, and although it includes many changes from what has turned into his first-choice side it’s one that should be able to win this game. But does it include any clues for the Champions League semi-final line-up?
Jamie Carragher gets a rest rather than Sami Hyypia, which might mean Carra’s starting at right-back again next week and needs to conserve some energy! Of course it could also mean that Sami Hyypia will be on the bench at Anfield. Hyypia’s partner at centre-back is Martin Skrtel, with Finnan and Riise taking the full-back roles.
It does seem like Rafa’s going for a more conventional 4-4-2 today, but with Rafa it’s usually best to wait until the game’s underway before making any assumptions. Lucas and Mascherano are the two central midfielders on the field, with Pennant and Benayoun the two normally wide players, Crouch and Voronin the front men. If Rafa’s going for the 4-2-3-1 formation then Crouch would probably get the Torres role, or as near to it as he can get, with Yossi, Voronin, and Pennant making up the three behind.
Gerrard has a neck complaint and so hasn’t travelled. It’s a strong bench, Rafa choosing to use experience on the there rather than youngsters. Carra is joined by top-scorer Torres, Xabi Alonso and Fabio Aurelio, all quite likely to be starters against Chelsea. John Arne Riise will be hoping to show Rafa today that he should be picked ahead of Aurelio.
Fulham are battling against relegation, so it’s not going to be an easy game. If Liverpool win then they will be likely to need just one point from their remaining three games to ensure fourth place, thanks to a big advantage in goal difference over Everton.
Fulham: 1 Keller, 17 Stalteri, 18 Hughes, 32 Hangeland, 4 Konchesky, 25 Davies, 21 Bullard, 27 Murphy, 23 Dempsey, 9 Healy, 20 McBride
Subs: 12 Warner, 3 Bocanegra, 11 Kamara, 15 Nevland, 26 Andreasen
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 37 Skrtel, 4 Hyypia, 6 Riise, 16 Pennant, 21 Lucas, 20 Mascherano, 11 Benayoun, 10 Voronin, 15 Crouch
Subs: 30 Itandje, 9 Torres, 12 Aurelio, 14 Alonso, 23 Carragher
Referee: Martin Atkinson