This has been an odd season so far. The best teams have been not quite as good, while the worse teams have gotten better. There are only 5 points that separate 5th and 15th place in the table. Perhaps most surprisingly, one of the so-called Big Four currently sits in 18th place with only 9 points from 9 games. Bolton are 10 places ahead, although the difference is only 3 points. This is a game that we need a result from. We've had an encouraging season so far, but have lost momentum with 4 draws in the last 5 games. Our home form has not been spectacular this season, after all our lead goalscorer got all of his goals away from the Reebok, but Liverpool's away form has been absolutely awful. Another home win for Bolton would see us on 15 points from 10 games and a positive goal difference, and the way Liverpool have looked this season, this is quite possible.
This is a crucial moment in Liverpool's season. After a horrifying start, they got another win last weekend, not to mention a new owner and may be on the ups. Hodgson may be finally starting to have an effect, as it does take a while for a new manager to start getting good results. The Reds will view this as a place to prove that they can still play and that they can still win. The obvious players to watch out for will be Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, who have been absolutely carrying the team (from the BBC: "The Reds have not managed to score a league goal that wasn't either scored or assisted by Gerrard or Fernando Torres since the opening day of the season"). If the defense tight on these obvious danger zones, Bolton should be able to negate a lot of the attacking threat Liverpool carries.
While Liverpool look to be on the ups, Bolton may be going the other way. The attractive football we started the season with appears to be slipping, the results going with it. This game could be crucial for determining our trajectory for the rest of the season. Liverpool are a big club, currently out of grace, and beating them at home would be a huge boost to morale without being an impossible task. I see our left wing as key to this match, right back being one of Liverpool's weakest spots. It is unclear whether or not Glen Johnson will be fit, but regardless Petrov should be looking to have the game of his Bolton career, while Paul Robinson should be focusing on his defensive duties, as the right wing is a powerful place for Liverpool.
Owen Coyle will probably stick pretty closely to his line up against Wigan, not being one for much experiementation. I see: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Lee, Holden, Muamba, Petrov, Elmander, Kevin Davies. While Ivan Klasnic is technically available, after his personal issues this week, and with Rodrigo Moreno looking rather promising, I doubt the Croat will even get a look in.
As pretty much every preview has pointed out, recent history is very much on Liverpool's side, with them taking most fixtures between the two club in the past several years. However, the Liverpool we've seen this season has not been the Liverpool of recent history, and it's debatable whether that history is even pertinent anymore. This is a game for Bolton to make a statement, to turn the Reebok into a hard place to get a result again. This is a game Bolton can do well in, now the team just has to show up.