The two men critical to Sterling-inspired Liverpool beating Hull
If there is one team in the Premier League that are almost over-tinkering with both formations and personnel at present, then it has to be Liverpool.
Against Newcastle, Brendan Rodgers started with a 4-3-3 and Philippe Coutinho as a false nine; it was 3-4-3 in the FA Cup semi-final with Aston Villa and Raheem Sterling was tasked with leading the line and then it was 4-2-3-1 against West Brom as Mario Balotelli earned a rare start up top.
This makes it tough to predict how Liverpool will set-up at Hull and much will hinge on whether Brendan Rodgers expects Hull to name an unchanged side from that which triumphed 2-0 at Crystal Palace.
If this is the case, Michael Dawson sits in the centre of a three-man defence that also includes James Chester and Paul McShane.
Dawson is not necessarily the weak link in this unit, but his lack of pace and occasional tendency to drop deeper to protect this limitation can be exploited.
However, the decision for Rodgers is whether Balotelli should start and be a focal point of attacks if Dawson drops to the edge of his box.
Coutinho would almost certainly not be followed if drifting back towards play as a false nine and this would give him space to work his magic. The problem here is that Hull may be content to have play in front of them 30 yards from their own goal.
Getting Sterling up against Dawson would be Liverpool’s best bet though as the former Tottenham defender particularly struggled against the pace and trickery of Eden Hazard early on in Hull’s recent defeat to Chelsea.
The best strategy for Rodgers may be to start with a bold 4-3-3, leaving Jordon Ibe and Lazar Markovic in advanced positions without too many defensive duties and encouraging them to pull wide.
This would allow them to occupy the two opposing centre halves and prevent them from offering Dawson too much protection against Sterling in the lone striker role.
With Coutinho then the most advanced as Liverpool’s midfield trio, he could also attempt to drag Tom Huddlestone away from his position sat in front of Dawson to prevent balls being passed into the forward players.
Liverpool have little to lose now this season and this highly-attacking strategy may proved the most effective at breaking through Hull.
The wincast of Sterling scoring in a Liverpool victory holds plenty of appeal at 10/3, especially as the Reds have already taken maximum points away from Hull’s relegation foes Burnley, QPR, Sunderland, Leicester and Aston Villa this season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £25 in free bets.