Liverpool – Swansea (Premier League)
A tough clash await the Swans in their visit to Anfield Road. The goalless draw achieved on Wednesday against an impressive Napoli side is just the boost they need to turn things around and they could certainly do without facing Liverpool in their home court right now. As for the Reds they’ll be hoping to close the gap to the top three pack.
Sunday Arsenal knocked-off Liverpool from the FA Cup, a small atonement for the 5-1 humiliation sustained a week before. The Reds may have some complaints about referee Howard Webb but the truth is the Gunners were quite competent stopping Liverpool at the Emirates.
Brendan Rodgers’ side hasn’t lost a home tie since they fell to Southampton in September (0-1) and in their last two League fixtures at Anfield they have scored 9 and conceded 1, against Everton and Arsenal no less. They are now 4th with 53 points, mere 4 adrift Chelsea on top. Looking up can’t hurt and adds pressure on the leaders. Especially now that Liverpool have no other competition to worry about. No cup or European schedule means, unlike the other title contenders, they’ll be able to concentrate efforts solely in the 12 remaining Premier League fixtures.
Glen Johnson could be in contention following four weeks in the sidelines with ankle and groin problems. It’s unlikely Rodgers would risk him, though, considering Martin Kelly’s and Jon Flanagan’s solid performances. Jordan Henderson should return to the starting XI after a minor wrist surgery. Lucas Leiva, Mamadou Sakho, José Enrique and Sebastián Coates continue in the sidelines.
Probable line-up: Mignolet – Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Cissokho – Coutinho, Gerard, Henderson – Suárez, Sturridge, Sterling.
Thursday’s Europa League 0-0 stalemate against Rafa Martinez side tasted of victory. Holding Napoli, a squad that dropped from the Champions League group stage with 12 points, to a draw is no small deed. It was Gary Monk’s forth game as a manager and his first in European competitions.
34-year-old new manager Gary Monk showed courage accepting the appointment to replace Laudrup. Maintain the welsh side in the Premier League is a demanding task for a man without managerial experience. Swansea sit in 10th place but the standings can be deceiving. Only 8 points separate them from the the last in a bottom-half claustrophobic table. Playing Europa League group stage proved detrimental to their domestic results, as expect in a side that has little to rotate. That threat is back and in even more dire circumstances.
Monk’s first game in charge was the Welsh derby the Swans won over Cardiff (3-1). The next round led them to Britannia where they secured a point in a 1-1 draw and then they host Everton to suffer a 3-1 defeat.
Nathan Dyer and Pablo Hernandéz suffered knocks on Thursday and will have their fitness tested prior to the match. Michu experienced some swelling and won’t return unless he is entirely ready. Alex Pozuelo could be in contention. Kyle Bartley is the only confirmed casualty.
Probable line-up: Vorm – Rangel, Flores, Williams, Davies – Britton, Guzmán – Emnes, Shelvey, Routledge – Bony.
Liverpool have scored exactly twice as much as the Swans in the League this season (66-33). The Welsh side won 2 of the 6 last ties they went head-to-head with the Reds, one of them at Anfield. The corresponding fixture last season resulted in Swansea being hammered 5-0, Monk was fielded then. The reverse tie, in September, proved to be much more balanced, ending up in a 2-2 stalemate.