Harry Must Play

Posted by Rushian on May 22, 2007, 12:33:59 AM

I am not lucky enough to be on my way to Athens to see the final chapter in Liverpool Football Club's Champions League adventure, and so I have been shopping for the exact same tins of lager as I was drinking almost two years ago. Back then my daughter was only fifteen months old and fast asleep in her bedroom immediately above the television. As a result of this I defected to the garden shed for the final, knowing full well that were I to remain in the house, my poor daughter would stand no chance of sleeping should The Reds triumph. It turned out to be a wise course of action.

So with superstition paramount, it will be back to the shed once more on Wednesday night with the aforementioned beer not forgetting the same fold out camping chair. It reminds me of watching our first ever victory in the competition back in 1977. Back then I watched the final from Rome on a black and white portable TV in my bedroom. Donít get me wrong, I am not about to reel off some hard luck story of poverty and hardship, in fact my dad was watching the same game downstairs in full colour. Iím not sure why I watched it on my own in black and white when colour was available, it can only have been the novelty of our recently purchased portable telly. But the thought of Rome í77 on the said portable was what I clung to as embarrassment loomed at half time in Istanbul.

Back then there was no real debate as to the make up of the Liverpool team. The formation was even more certain. As the build up to the Olympic Stadium showdown continues, no one really knows exactly who will make the starting eleven or what the master tactician Benitez has in store.

Will we line up with a four, four two formation? I suspect it may be five in midfield that is preferred. Benitez will no doubt, quite rightly, be wary of the Milan midfield and perhaps most significantly that Kaka tends to run from deeper areas. With that in mind I feel the Spaniard will err on the cautious side. The make up of the midfield is open for debate of course, unlike the back five which will surely be Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger and Riise.

We will, I believe, see Mascherano at the heart of things for Liverpool. At such a young age, he has to be Benitezís most shrewd buy to date and will easily be up to the standard of quality for such a big game. The same is also true of all of the other options available to commence battle alongside the Argentinean. Alonso, Sissoko and of course Gerrard all have the pedigree. Not my choice, but we could see all four of these midfielders with Stevie G out on the right; able to drift where he pleases provided the shape is maintained when defending. I would prefer to see Pennant out on the right and think he has done enough lately to convince us that he can be effective in the final. That would leave Gerrard free to drift, but in a more damaging central position where it will be easier for him to have an influence. Alonso would be my choice to sit alongside Mascherano. He has a cooler head and his use of the ball is better than Momo Sissokoís. This will be a game like all European games where possession is vital.

My next selection may be slightly controversial and probably even more unpopular. Harry Kewell is not everyoneís favourite, but is a must for this game. In his time at Anfield I think we have seen very little of a truly fit Kewell. It is then that we see the real contribution he can make. Too many have judged the Aussie on his performances when only 70 or 80 percent fit and as my father has always, and quite rightly told me, you cannot give an honest account of yourself if you are not fully fit. Kewell finally came back into the reckoning for The Reds with only three games to go and looks leaner than ever in a Liverpool shirt. Zenden is reportedly injured and letís be honest; Gonzalez has failed to look confident against the likes of Watford. No disrespect to the relegated Hornets, but A.C. Milan they are not.

So all that remains is who we shall see up front? If Kewell and Pennant play, it has to be Crouch. If Gerrard is out wide perhaps Kuyt will be preferred as the two seem to have developed an understanding. Either way I think Bellamy must be saved for an appearance later on. Partly down to the fact that he has been somewhat disappointing this term, but also due to Benitezís belief that substitutes should make an impact. Bellamyís pace will be a factor later on against an ageing defence. If the manager goes with two up then Crouch and Kuyt it will be.

It would be great to see Liverpool go out to really attack Milan with four at the back, Kewell, Mascherano, Gerrard and Pennant in the middle and Crouch and Kuyt up front. Benitez though, as I have already mentioned, is cautious. We have to trust him as his European record so far is up there with the best. I hope we see Kewell and Pennant with Crouch in attack, then Alonso and Mascherano providing a foundation for Gerrard to get involved centrally. The line up I expect we will see is Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Kewell, Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Pennant and Crouch or Kuyt.

I shall be off now to see what price Liverpool are to win on penalties and whilst Iím at it perhaps a double with the final, and therefore winning penalty to be scored by one Robert Bernard Fowler.

Come on you MIGHTY Reds!!

© Jim Brown 2007

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