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Premier League Preview: Liverpool - Birmingham City

Kick-off: Monday, November 9, 2009 - 20:00 BST
Anfield, Merseyside

It's a sad and sorry looking Liverpool side that play host to Birmingham City on Monday night as round 12 of the Premier League draws to a close.

The Reds' 3-1 reverse at Fulham last weekend took their tally to five losses in 11 league games this season - an alarming figure, considering that they suffered just two defeats in the entirety of the previous campaign.

And their woes aren't confined to the domestic scene, as Lisandro Lopez's late equaliser for Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday night has left the Merseyside club relying on Fiorentina's results as the two teams battle for a place in the Champions League knockout round.

Rafael Benitez and his crew have collected just one win - against Manchester United, no less - from their last eight games in all competitions, and they simply cannot afford another slip-up when Brum come to visit.

Alex McLeish's side boast an indifferent record on the road this season, although their spirited display at home to a Shay Given-inspired Manchester City last week showed that they are well capable of mixing it with the big boys.

Still, the Blues sit just one point above the relegation zone, and the one thing Liverpool have got right this season is dispatching the 'lesser' teams when they visit Anfield - as Stoke City (4-0), Burnley (4-0) and Hull City (6-1) all found out the hard way.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool


Nov 4  Olympique Lyonnais 1-1 Liverpool  (Champions League)
Oct 31  Fulham 3-1 Liverpool
Oct 28  Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool  (League Cup)
Oct 25  Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United
Oct 20  Liverpool 1-2 Olympique Lyonnais  (Champions League)

Birmingham City

Nov 1  Birmingham City 0-0 Manchester City
Oct 24  Birmingham City 2-1 Sunderland
Oct 17  Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham City
Oct 3  Burnley 2-1 Birmingham City
Sep 26  Birmingham City 1-2 Bolton Wanderers

TEAM NEWS

Liverpool


Jamie Carragher and Philipp Degen are both suspended after picking up red cards in the defeat at Craven Cottage last weekend, leaving Benitez with something of a problem in defence. With Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly both battling injury, young Stephen Darby looks like the only option at right-back.

However, Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio are available once more after shaking off their respective problems, while Alberto Aquilani could make his long-awaited Premier League debut from the bench.

Fernando Torres is expected to start despite his well-documented hernia troubles, but neither Steven Gerrard nor Albert Riera will feature.

Last starting XI (vs. Olympique Lyonnais): Reina, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Lucas, Mascherano, Benayoun, Voronin, Torres.

Birmingham City

The visitors' chances will be hampered by the absence of Barry Ferguson, who foolishly bought a second booking late on against Man City for impeding a throw-in. Lee Carsley could replace the Scot in midfield.

Irish wide-man Keith Fahey picked up a knee knock in training and faces a race to pass fit in time, while Garry O'Connor is struggling with a groin problem.

Joe Hart wasn't eligible to face his parent club last time out, but the young goalkeeper is in danger of sitting out once again after Maik Taylor's heroics against the Citizens.

Last starting XI (vs. Manchester City): Taylor, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, McFadden, Benitez, Jerome.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Liverpool - Fernando Torres


The Spaniard is nowhere near full fitness but has vowed to play through the pain for the time being. Hernia or no, 'El Nino' is a threat - it's that simple. It's just a matter of whether or not he gets the service.

Birmingham City - James McFadden

The twinkle-toed Scot ran riot in spells against Man City (brilliantly saved penalty aside), pulling out the sort of mercurial moves that leaves one wondering why he's never managed to take that next step in his career. If he gets it right, the Reds' rearguard will be in for a busy night.

PREDICTION

Liverpool 3-0 Birmingham City

Mick Maguire, Goal.com UK