SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal with Lucas Leiva during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light on March 20, 2011 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Two bits of news today, both regarding team's holding midfielders.
First, and certainly the biggest news is that Lucas Leiva, fresh off his man-of-the-match performance against Manchester City, will miss the rest of the season.
Lucas injury update - Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC said today a scan had confirmed an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in Lucas Leiva's left knee. The Brazil international will undergo surgery and unfortunately be ruled out for the remainder of the current campaign.
The second bit of news comes from Wolves, where most players are going to be available to McCarthy, but that Karl Henry will serve a ban this weekend.
Double boost for Wolves as key duo fit - Express & Star
But in-form midfielder Karl Henry misses out with a one-match ban after his fifth booking in the 3-0 defeat at Chelsea last Saturday. Doyle hasn’t trained fully yet because of the knee injury that kept him out of the Chelsea game... the Ireland international may well resume his partnership with joint three-goal top scorer Steven Fletcher.
Analysis after the jump.
Jamie O'Hara is a popular fantasy pick this week. And for good reason. Before his suspension he was being played in behind a lone striker and was shooting and scoring. I know - I had him in my team against Wigan and was rewarded with four shots on target and a goal. It was that performance that solidified my now doctrinaire policy of buying players who are playing Wigan.
But now Fletcher is back and will likely play up-front with Doyle. While O'Hara is probably best suited to a more advanced role, he can play a deeper role. With Henry suspended, I think it is likely that it is O'Hara who will be asked to drop back and do more covering in the center of the park. Of course, that will hurt his fantasy value... even home to a rudderless Sunderland. I could see some attacking returns, but a likely yellow card as well.
As for Liverpool, Lucas' injury comes just as he, and the team, were buoyant. Among all of Daglish's midfielders, Lucas was the one most likely on the team sheet. Now, without him, Daglish is going to have to dip back into his back of tricks.
Jay Spearing is an obvious like-for-like replacement, but I'm not sure he's good enough (yet) to make a regular impact. Jonjo Shelvey has been recalled from loan, but in my opinion that's to make up the numbers.
Daglish has been very good about changing his team for maximum advantage week-to-week. So I don't want to predict too far into the future. But for this weekend's match at Fulham, I would expect to see Liverpool in a 4-4-2. I would expect Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson to be the central pairing with Hendo doing more of the running. Like in O'Hara's case, I wouldn't be surprised to see Adam pick up a yellow card this weekend as he can be a nasty tackler.
In this view, I would expect Andy Carroll to get the start against Fulham as he can get in against - and help defend from set pieces - Fulham's big bodies like Brede Hangeland, Bobby Zamora, and Clint Dempsey.