Liverpool vs Fulham: Stats Preview

This may not be the high-profile, title-defining clash that was the Manchester City - Manchester United game but rest assured Liverpool's would-be stars will be (or should be) straining every sinew in their bodies to deliver a convincing win over Fulham in their midweek game.

There are several reasons why these final four games of the Reds' season (the FA Cup final against Chelsea included) could be the most important of the 2011/12 campaign. The most prominent of these is the fact that it represents the last chance to salvage some pride after a disastrous run of form that before the 3-0 win away to Norwich City saw Kenny Dalglish's side win only once in six games and only four times, in the league, in 2012.

There was some redemption with the Carling Cup win; a fact that in itself pales in contrast with the point that had Liverpool not won the tournament they would have been staring at a season with European football and that could have been disastrous for a side looking to rebuild, again.

The Build-Up:

Tuesday's game against Fulham is important for another reason. It could, given the Reds' fragile form of late, signal a hugely problematic end to the season - Liverpool could finish below Everton in the Premier League. The Toffees have 51 points from 35 games, two more than Liverpool and are well in control. A strong win at home to Fulham, who incidentally, are only three behind Liverpool themselves could send a message of intent and, if nothing else, build momentum ahead of the double-header against Chelsea (the FA Cup final on 5 May and a league game at Anfield on 8 May).

Meanwhile, Fulham will come into this game on the back of a 4-0 hammering from, curiously enough, Everton, in their last game. Unfortunately for the Cottagers, the defeat brought a rather decent run of games to an end. After three consecutive defeats in early March (0-1 away to Villa, 0-3 at home to Swansea and 0-1 away to United), Martin Jol's men went on a four game unbeaten run, beating Norwich 2-1 at home, Bolton 3-0 away and Wigan 2-1 at home; the latter two games sandwiched a very impressive 1-1 draw at home against Chelsea. The Everton loss came at the wrong time.

However, having said that we must also add there really is not much for Fulham to play for. They have avoided relegation and are too far from the upper echelons of the league, both in terms of talent and points, to even think about mounting a challenge for European football.

Fulham's biggest challenge, until the start of next season, will be to hang on to the services of top scorer Clint Dempsey; the American has scored 16 goals in the league so far, which has attracted the attention of both Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp.

Fuham vs Liverpool (Source: Reuters)

Team News:

According to the Telegraph, £35 million striker Andy Carroll has recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of the Norwich game. Carroll has had a difficult season, mirroring, perhaps, his club's. He was reportedly losing his manager's confidence, was caught abusing Dalglish at one point and was even being considered for a loan out next season before last-minute game winning goals against Blackburn in the league and Everton in the FA Cup semi-final seemed to settle nerves.

Fortunately for Dalglish, Carroll's recovery means he has a full-strength side to choose from, with the exception of long-term absentees Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam.

Fulham may miss striker Andy Johnson; the Telegraph report he is sidelined with an adductor injury although he could still make the trip. However, Zdenek Grygera, Steve Sidwell and Bryan Ruiz are definitely out.

Facts:

  • Fulham have never won a league game at Anfield; in 24 games, they have lost 17 and drawn seven, conceding 56 goals in the process.
  • Fulham have failed to score at Anfield in their last five visits.
  • However, Jol will take heart from the fact that the Reds' have beaten his side only twice in the last five league games between the clubs.
  • Liverpool's Luis Suarez is in red-hot form, having scored five of his side's last eight league goals.
  • Fulham substitutes have scored only once this season.

Man to Watch:

  • Liverpool - Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan may be a controversial player but, as the Reds' captain Steven Gerrard said, on his day he is undoubtedly one of the finest forwards in Europe. Fortunately for Liverpool, these seem to be his days.
  • Fulham - Clint Dempsey. The American will probably not be at Craven Cottage next season. He will want, therefore, to go out on a high and scoring goals, if not to help his side then at least to boost his market value ahead of the summer transfer window/

Where to Watch Live:

The match will be available live on vslive.tv in the UK and FOXSoccer.tv  in the US. 

Prediction:

Liverpool should, theoretically, win this game. They have a bit more to play for than Fulham and will desperately also want to keep their fans happy, at least at Anfield.

Liverpool 2 - Fulham 1.