Liverpool FC v Bolton Wanderers FC
1st Jan 2011, Saturday, 3pm GMT
What a difference a year makes.
At the turn of 2010, Bolton were flirting with the relegation zone and Liverpool were, under Rafa Benitez, pushing for that fourth spot. Just a mere 12 months later, the complexion has changed. The fortunes reversed. Liverpool is a team in free fall, now treading ever closer to relegation waters, while the Trotters play adventurous football and are now riding high in the table.
The new year always represents new aspirations, new hopes, and new resolutions. This clash against Bolton represents a significant opportunity for Liverpool to stamp their mark in the New Year, and to show that the club have not turned into also-rans in just a over a year.
The last game of 2010 ended on a very depressing note for Liverpool FC. Roy Hodgson turned against the fans, against club legend Kenny Dalglish, and it looks like a war behind the scenes is about to erupt.
Two days after a footballing fiasco, it emerged that FSG, led by John Henry, are looking for a new manager, with names such as Andre Villas-Boas, Jurgen Klopp, Frank Rjikaard, Didier Deschamps all thrown into the hat.
What is intriguing though, is that the manager in the opposing dugout today is also under stringent consideration by the Anfield board. Step forward Owen Coyle, whose fresh approach has revitalised Bolton.
The troops are down, and Hodgson is potentially facing his toughest time in his 35 year managerial career, most of which was spent in Sweden and Switzerland. Having apologised to the fans in yesterday’s pre-match press conference, his fingers must be crossed that the fans don’t turn on him at Anfield today.
Bolton represents a fresh challenge for Liverpool, and in particular Hodgson. Lack of ambition to attack and take the game to the Trotters would clearly underline Hodgson’s old fashioned methods which are not destined to work at a top club like Liverpool.
Elmander has scored more than Gerrard and Torres combined and is enjoying his most profilic season to date in the EPL. Stuart Holden, an industrious player with an eye for a pass, represents a stern test for the likes of Lucas and Meireles. Throw in captain of Bolton, Kevin Davies, and Liverpool will be in for a roller coaster of a ride when Coyle’s men come calling.
Joe Cole is not expected to feature in this game, due to yet another injury, while Gerrard should start despite completing 90 minutes against Wolves in a ‘very tired’ state. Other than Carragher, Hodgson has a full, and demoralised squad to choose from.
Can Hodgson pick up the troops for the war?
Expected Liverpool lineup (4-2-3-1): Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Konchesky, Lucas, Meireles, Maxi, Gerrard, Kuyt, Torres.
Liverpool 1-1 Bolton
You can follow me on Twitter @redsonfire