Saturday January 30, 2010
Kick-off 15:00 GMT, Anfield, Liverpool
When Steven Gerrard struck a late winner against Bolton Wanderers on a sunny afternoon at the Reebok Stadium in August, it seemed that Liverpool had landed a vital three points in their pursuit of a title challenge.
Instead, it was to prove a harbinger of a season that refused to spark into life for Rafael Benitez's side. This was a match in which they trailed twice before Fernando Torres and Gerrard rescued them. Soon enough, neither was fit enough or able to spare them from exiting the Champions League, League Cup, FA Cup and have their title dream left in tatters.
It has hardly been a season to remember for Bolton either. They sit one point above the relegation zone, although the arrival of Owen Coyle in place of Gary Megson as manager has put a breath of fresh air in their sails.
Jan 26: Wolves 0-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
Jan 20: Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham (Premier League)
Jan 16: Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool (Premier League)
Jan 13: Liverpool 1-2 Reading (FA Cup replay, after extra time)
Jan 2: Reading 1-1 Liverpool (FA Cup)
Jan 26: Bolton 1-0 Burnley (Premier League)
Jan 23: Bolton 2-0 Sheffield United (FA Cup)
Jan 20: Arsenal 4-2 Bolton (Premier League)
Jan 17: Bolton 2-0 Arsenal (Premier League)
Jan 2: Bolton 4-0 Lincoln City (FA Cup)
Steven Gerrard is likely to start having come through a full 90 minutes against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday. Long term absentees include Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres, while Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger are also unlikely to be available.
Possible XI: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Insua; Lucas, Mascherano; Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera; Ngog
Sean Davis and Joey O'Brien are both ruled out with knee injuries, while Mark Davis has an ankle complaint. Owen Coyle will likely be able to field the same starting XI that defeated old club Burnley, though, meaning new loan signing Jack Wilshere will have to settle for a place on the bench for his first game since moving north from Arsenal on Friday.
Possible XI: Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Ricketts; Lee, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor, Klasnic; Davies
Players to watch
So often charged with dragging his club from its knees, Steven Gerrard will again shoulder responsibility as he has done for much of this forgettable campaign for the Reds. Now, though, he might be nearing full fitness which should enable him to be at the centre of everything, which is usually a good thing for the Liverpool cause.
Another contributor who should not be overlooked is Sotirios Kyrgiakos, whose physical presence in the heart of the defence has been key to a spirited resolve in recent matches. Teams are having to work hard to score against Liverpool, which hadn't always been the case before Kyrgiakos' sustained run in the side. His clash with Kevin Davies should leave both men black and blue.
Bolton defender Gary Cahill looks like he will remain at the club beyond the end of the transfer window on Monday, but this is still an opportunity for him to prove his worth to potential suitors. It will not be Fernando Torres putting him to the test, but whoever Rafael Benitez pits against the Bolton backline must be shepherded with caution.
Liverpool continue to search for the metaphorical turning point in their season. Perhaps it will be more of a gentle curve than a corner, but a home game against Bolton should mark a positive turn at least.
It is 56 years since Bolton won a league game at Anfield, and they haven't so much as scored there since 2003. Their renaissance under Coyle might be enough to make this game awkward for Liverpool, but the Reds simply need this game more, which could prove the difference.
Liverpool 2-0 Bolton Wanderers