Liverpool v QPR – Suarez, Barton or Mason to star?

QUEENS PARK RANGERS are the guests at Anfield today and will feel they have a chance of taking points off Liverpool on their home patch. They’ll be well aware that The Reds’ record against newly-promoted sides hasn’t been the best in recent times and will also have noted how many sides have at least left Anfield with a point this season.

Their own record also suggests confidence wouldn’t be too misplaced – they’ve already beaten Chelsea this season and arrive on Merseyside having won more games away than at home, including a win across the park at Goodison.

One of the most aired criticisms of Liverpool this season is that they are playing well, creating chance after chance, but for a number of reasons are unable to master the actual placing of that ball into that net as often as they should. In all the Reds have scored just 17 times in 14 league games and need to find a way to turn the chances into goals.

QPR have got goalkeeper problems and that means their third-choice keeper Radek Cerny is likely to start between the sticks. Paddy Kenny out is until the New Year and his understudy Brian Murphy is out with a calf injury. Cerny was first-choice at Loftus Road until the arrival of Paddy Kenny last season and had slipped further down the pecking order this term with Murphy preferred ahead of him as substitute keeper.

Joey Barton’s support of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign has seen him receive plaudits from a large number of Liverpool fans and means he might just get a positive welcome from the home supporters before kick-off. That warmth will be suspended from kick-off and for the duration of the game.

Liverpool have problems in central midfield with Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard and Jay Spearing all missing.

Lucas had successful knee surgery during the week but will be out for the rest of the season. Gerrard has now returned to training following his ankle problems but Spearing is out for three games having been suspended following his red card against Fulham on Monday.

That sending off saw Liverpool charged with failing to control their players in what has been seen by many as more evidence of the major inconsistencies shown by referees and the FA in both enforcing the laws of the game and applying the various domestic rules. The announcement Lee Mason was taking charge of today’s game, in a week that Kenny Dalglish had spoken about the inconsistencies in officiating, left Liverpool supporters wondering if this might be another game where the centre of attention is the referee. Mason sent Degen and Carragher off (and was reportedly “dropped” for the following weekend’s fixtures) at Craven Cottage in 2009-10.

The beginning of that season saw Rafa Benítez charged for comments he’d made about a referee, including making a gesture with his glasses during the press conference. The same weekend saw current QPR boss Warnock making a gesture in the dugout, with a similar meaning, and captured on TV. Warnock wasn’t charged and this was mentioned in the decision from the independent panel with a suggestion of inconsistency on the part of the FA. That charge came a few weeks after Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson had been very vocal about the referee in the Community Shield game with Chelsea, a game that saw his players surround the referee at one point – no charges were brought against the club or the manager in that game.

Despite the background to the match including so much attention on officialdom there is still a good chance of it being a match to remember for all the right reasons. Away from central midfield Kenny has pretty much a full strength squad available to him and each of those players knows that they have to start delivering and overcoming bad luck or poor form to get Liverpool back on the start of another unbeaten or – more importantly – winning run. QPR will do all they can to prevent that.

Liverpool (from) – Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Kuyt, Bellamy, Carroll, Suarez, Doni, Rodríguez, Downing, Kelly, Carragher, Aurélio, Coates, Wilson, Shelvey, Flanagan

QPR (from) – Cerny, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Traore, Young, Barton, Mackie, Faurlin, Wright-Phillips, Bothroyd, Helguson, Buzsaky, Smith, Derry, Taarabt, Puncheon, Ephraim, Perone, Connolly

Referee: Lee Mason

Kick-off: 3pm

TV Coverage:

UK: Highlights only (Match of the Day, BBC; Football First, Sky Sports)
US: FoxSoccer.TV (Subscribe: US IP address required, see for details.)