Liverpool – Cardiff (Premier League)
At noon on Saturday Liverpool host Cardiff to kick-start week 17 of the Premier League. Manager Malky Mackay was told by the club’s Chairman to quit or be axed, which he refused. It has to be a scary prospect this days to travel to Anfield, the Bluebirds could do without the extra-pressure.
This fixture was going to be all about the overwhelming form and fire power Liverpool exhibits. It still is but the quarrels at Cardiff City are threatening to take over. The Reds are 2nd in the table with 33 points, as many as Chelsea. Last weekend was a double winner: they have crushed the Spurs, ultimately leading to AVB departure and also closed the gap to Arsenal. They have scored 20 times in their last 5 home ties. At this point they have a juicy carrot dangling before their eyes, the possibility of going into the new year as leaders of the Premier League. This is their chance to get ahead. Their next fixtures will involve the 3 C’s – Cadiff, City and Chelsea –, a make it or break it moment. José Enrique, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard’s injuries forced Brendan Rodgers to resort to the Reds “happy bench” to fill in the blanks and the results have exceptional. Joe Allen is back in action, Suárez is unstoppable, Raheem Sterling has been given the time to built his confidence. Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses are regular substitutes that make their team proud. The bench has been so instrumental that now the question is if Liverpool is better with or without Gerrard. Lucas, Henderson and Allen have taken on the responsibility and they are playing beautifully together. The pupils honouring the master.
Probable line-up: Mignolet – Jonhson, Skertel, Sakho, Flanagan – Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen – Sterling, Suárez, Coutinho.
The tension between the Manager and the Board reached a new high. Mackay refused the ultimatum to resign and travelled with the team to Anfield Road, even though it is common knowledge that Owner and Chairman will meet this Friday with a single item in the menu: getting rid of the Scott. And we all know when the grown-ups fight it affects the kids. What can Malky do to try and shelter the squad from all this? The first run at the Premier League following promotion is never easy and Cardiff has done all right so far. They are 15th with 17 points for 16 matches, 4 above relegation trio. Also, Mackay was behind that said promotion. Apparently, Owner Vincent Tan was not pleased with the work. He expressed complaints about the Manager’s signings, results and conservative style of playing. Seriously? Is it really the best time for that? Before this turmoil the were no indications that the Bluebirds wouldn’t end this season way anywhere other than the Premier League. This could jeopardize what has been achieved. When the season ends, and if you have higher expectations make the necessary changes.
Other than Craig Bellamy, Malky Mackay will have the entire squad fit for battle.
Probable line-up: Marshall – Théophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor – Odemwingie, Mutch, Medel, Whittingham, Noone – Campbell.
It will be the very first time Liverpool and Cardiff face each other in the Premier League. In February 2012, however, they have met during the Capital One Cup final. Then the Reds won in penalty shots, after a 2-2 draw in overtime. This will be a clash between runners-up, too. Liverpool have the second best attack in the League, Cardiff has the second worse defence. The numbers are not good for the Bluebirds.