14 September 2013

Liverpool at Swansea 09.16.13

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
5-0 Liverpool (h) 02.17.13
0-0 (a) 11.25.12
1-3 Swansea (h; League Cup) 10.31.12
0-1 Swansea (a) 05.13.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 United (h); 4-2 Notts County aet (h); 1-0 Villa (a)
Swansea: 2-0 West Brom (a); 1-2 Petrolul Ploiesti (a); 0-1 Tottenham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sturridge 3
Swansea: Bony, Davies, Hernandez 1

Referee: Michael Oliver

Liverpool's record with Oliver: 6W-4D-1L. Last season: 4W-1D, with 11 goals scored and 3 conceded. That lone loss came in Dalglish's first Premiership match in January 2011. I like Michael Oliver. Yes, I'm well aware this is a kiss of death and you might as well pencil in a Liverpool loss now.

Guess at a line-up:
Wisdom Toure Agger Enrique
Gerrard Lucas
Henderson Coutinho Moses

Stupid international breaks. It's been too long since we've had real football.

At least, this time the international break seemingly benefited Liverpool. Liverpool got to spend two weeks at the top of the table having beaten Manchester United before the respite, the only side to win all three of its league matches. Even if it means next to nothing at this point of the season, seeing Liverpool ahead of 19 other sides is still a massive confidence boost. Sturridge had time to recuperate from his thigh injury. The three deadline day signings had time to adjust to their new surroundings; Moses went away with Nigeria but both Sakho and Ilori stayed in Liverpool.

Okay. Maybe the international breaks aren't all that bad.

So, will any of those deadline day signings feature on Monday?

Victor Moses seems the most likely, even though he was the only one to play over the international break. And, being right-footed, he seems most likely to play on the left in Rodgers' system. Which would mean that Coutinho moves inside, with Aspas subsequently left out. Or, Henderson could make way with Aspas shifting to the right, although I'd vastly prefer Henderson keep his place considering his form over Liverpool's first four fixtures. If Sturridge isn't fit, Aspas will almost certainly start up front, with Moses, Coutinho, and Henderson behind him.

As Ilori's almost certainly one for the future, the other new signing who might feature is Mamadou Sakho. However, if Kolo Toure's recovered from his groin injury – which looks to be the case – he'll get the nod, allowing Sakho more time to adjust to Liverpool and Rodgers' system, and to train as the right-sided center back. Yes, competition for places is healthy. Yes, we can't rely on Agger staying as healthy as he did last season (*knocks furiously on wood* *cowers under desk*). But Agger, Liverpool's vice captain, is certainly odds on to retain his place as long as he's available. If Toure needs another week before full fitness, my guess is that Sakho starts ahead of Skrtel, but that's solely a guess, based more on wanting to see Liverpool's new toy than any tangible information.

Johnson's injury, out for the next month at best, with six weeks probably more likely, will necessitate Wisdom drafted into the side. Kelly's still not fully match fit. Henderson's versatility will probably see him get a game or two or more in the position as well, but I don't know if he'll be thrown in that deep end right away.

Otherwise, the team pretty much writes itself. Mignolet, Agger, Lucas, Gerrard, and Coutinho are guaranteed starters when fit; Enrique is as well as long as Cissokho's out or until Rodgers feels comfortable deploying Sakho at left-back, if that ever happens.

Despite taking just three points from their first three matches, Swansea are still very much a threat. A home loss to United and narrow away loss at Spurs were no surprise, and they rebounded by easily dispatching West Brom before the break.

However, Swansea will also be playing with one eye on midweek, traveling to Valencia on Thursday in the Europa League, but I doubt it'll affect their lineup that much. Maybe Laudrup will leave out one or two regulars – maybe, say, Pablo or Canas or de Guzman – but this won't be another 5-0 romp against Swansea's B-team before their League Cup final.

The biggest question appears to be the inclusion of Swansea's record signing, Wilfred Bony. The Ivorian has only started one of Swansea's three matches, two weeks ago at West Brom, used off the bench against both Tottenham and United. Bony also traveled to Cote d'Ivoire to play against Morocco during the break, if only used as a sub. I wouldn't be surprised if Laudrup's lineup replicated those against Spurs and United. Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Canas, Shelvey, de Guzman; Hernandez, Michu, Routledge. As always, I will mention the worry about former Liverpool players facing their old clubs, but let's hope that Shelvey continues to be Shelvey. That sounds meaner than I mean it to be, but he does have a history of playing worse when he's trying "too hard," trying to do too much too soon.

A few times last season after Liverpool had earned some good results in a row, the team disappointed in the next fixture: underwhelming and underperforming, seemingly convinced they'd be able to stroll to a win. 1-3 Aston Villa, 0-2 West Brom, 1-3 Southampton, just to name a few.

This seems a similar circumstance, with the added bonus of a two-week layoff since the high of beating United. Liverpool's results against Stoke, Villa, and United have helped demonstrate that this is a new season, is a new team. Doing similar at Swansea on Monday would further reinforce those notions.

Meta note: Like with the League Cup tie against Notts County, the review for Monday's match will be late. I *should* be able to watch the match live, albeit on my phone, despite having to travel for work on Monday. But the review won't be up until very, very late Monday night, more likely Tuesday morning, with the match infographic also delayed until Tuesday afternoon at the very earliest. Apologies in advance. Liverpool need to stop with these weekday matches please.


Anonymous said...

"Work" "travel" get outta here Nate

nate said...

New job started over the summer, not totally reliant on freelance and set-my-own-schedule-for-the-most-part anymore. Like I'd choose to miss Liverpool matches if I could avoid it.