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Football: Liverpool to show they are not just a one-man band.

Byline: PAUL JOHNSON

LIVERPOOL can confound their critics by overcoming the absence of Michael Owen to inflict a first domestic

defeat of the season on Leeds at Anfield today.

Clashes between these two giants are always high-tempo affairs that you can't take your eye off for a second and a case could happily be made for each of the three possible outcomes. Play your hunch, then, although be aware they have not shared the spoils in the last ten meetings on Merseyside.

The simple, and perfectly reasonable, line to take would be that Liverpool, without their jet-heeled Boy Wonder and lacking natural width as usual, will struggle to carve out many clear-cut openings against a side who have conceded only three goals in ten starts this season.

The argument could reasonably continue that Leeds will be cock-a-hoop after butchering Leicester 6-0 in the Worthington Cup at Filbert Street on Tuesday, whereas Liverpool's self-doubts will have been augmented by Grimsby's shock 2-1 triumph in the same competition at

Anfield on the same night.

But, for all that, there are reservations whether Leeds are quite as good as their record this term suggests,

given most of the time they have been a pale imitation of the side who sizzled their way through the second half of last season. Apart from their game at Arsenal on the second outing of the campaign, Leeds have enjoyed a feather bed of fixtures.

They outmuscled the Gunners at Highbury and have also beaten Southampton, Charlton, Derby and Ipswich and drawn with West Ham and Bolton but this match provides the most credible indicator of how long they are likely to remain camped at the Premiership summit.

Although Liverpool suffered another injury blow when left-back Gregory Vignal broke a bone in his foot against Grimsby, manager Gerard Houllier has assembled a squad of gargantuan proportions and he intimated earlier in the week that Robbie Fowler and Stephane Henchoz could be

available again after missing out on Tuesday through a chest infection and an Achilles problem respectively.

On the plus side, the Scousers were able to include Vladimir Smicer, Patrik Berger and Jamie Redknapp in the squad against Grimsby, with Smicer on from the start and Redknapp introduced 15 minutes from the end of normal time, though presumably Emile Heskey will be on from the first whistle this time.

But even more significant is the availability of Steven Gerrard after a three-match suspension and the versatile powerhouse will be eager to atone for his uncharacteristically poor display for England a week ago.

Liverpool have yet to look totally convincing at home this season, although they were value for much more than a 1-0 win over Dynamo Kiev late last month and

thoroughly professional in their 2-0 triumph at Newcastle just four days later when completing a four-timer of clean sheets.

The Reds ought to have won the first encounter at

Elland Road last season but were sloppy and caught Mark Viduka on fire as they crashed to a 4-3 defeat, but they ground out revenge in an FA Cup rematch there in January before losing 2-1 at Anfield in April when Gerrard was sent off in the second half.

Houllier has declared Liverpool will not be suffering from a hangover from their midweek disappointment and nor should they be when victory here would inch them to within two points of Leeds with a game in hand.

Recommendations

Liverpool

4pts 5-4 (Bet Direct, Sunderlands, Surrey)

Liverpool to win 2-1

1pt 8-1 (Chandler, S Soccer, Tote)

CAPTION(S):

Robbie Fowler can help Liverpool to defeat Leeds today
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2001
Words:597
Previous Article:Football: Two-for-one Anfield deal.
Next Article:Football: United in Beckham doubt.


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