By Scott Taylor
Neil Critchley’s Liverpool U18s are hoping to make it nine games unbeaten when they travel to Blackburn Rovers at Brockhall Village tomorrow. The U18s have drawn their last two matches and will be hoping to get back to winning ways in Saturday’s clash. However, they will come up against the club who were the last team to beat them, with Rovers thrashing the Reds 4-0 at the Kirkby Academy in August.
Liverpool are currently third in the Barclays U18 Premier League with 21 points from their opening 11 games. A win for the Reds on Saturday will keep them in third, but it will close the gap on second-placed Manchester City to just three points. They are coming up against a Blackburn side who are in fifth. However, a win for Blackburn on Saturday may see them leapfrog Liverpool into third, that’s if they win by two or more goals.
After beating Liverpool in the return fixture, Rovers went on to go six games unbeaten, winning five of them. However, they have failed to win any of their last three games, which included two defeats. In their previous game, they lost 5-1 at Middlesbrough which was their biggest defeat of the season, and their first away defeat of the season. They will hoping to bounce back against the in-form Reds.
Liverpool will definitely have a selection dilemma ahead of the game. Kane Lewis remains doubtful after he was forced off in the 0-0 draw against Wolves on Tuesday, with Geroge Johnston or Michael Parker waiting in the wings. Captain Trent Alexander-Arnold did also play at right-back before his move into the midfield, so can deputise there if required.
Critchley will have another problem in his attack. Both Bobby Adekanye and Toni Gomes impressed during the draw, whilst Yan Dhanda produced plenty of chances, even if he missed two penalites. Despite this, Ben Woodburn and Paulo Alves have been an important part of ths side this season, so will Critchley rotate and recall these players or stick with the likes of Adekanye and Dhanda? It is worth noting that Woodburn, 16, has been in inspired form this season, picking up three assists in one game on two occasions this season. His creativity may be key to unlocking the Blackburn defence.
Blackburn have their own threats of their own. Lewis Mansell is the U18s top-scorer with 13 goals in all competitions this season, as he builds on his pre-season with the first team. Mansell memorably scored a hat-trick against the Reds and that was one of two hat-tricks already scored this season. Mason Fawns, Olly Mehew and Joel Steer also poses a threat towards goal, but all three haven’t found the back of the net in recent weeks. U18s captain Lewis Hardcastle, who scored the other goal against Liverpool, will be unavailable for the hosts tomorrow, as he is currently on loan at non-league side Salford City, who are in FA Cup action tonight.
It’s set to be an intriguing tie, but will the Reds get revenge from their last defeat, or with the hosts complete the double to end Liverpool’s unbeaten run. Kick-off is at 11am.
By Scott Taylor