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Last four head-to-head:
4-3 Liverpool (h) 02.23.14
2-2 (a) 09.16.13
5-0 Liverpool (h) 02.17.13
0-0 (a) 11.25.12
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Hull (h); 0-3 Real Madrid (h); 3-2 QPR (a)
Swansea: 2-0 Leicester (h); 1-2 Stoke (a); 2-2 Newcastle (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard, Sterling 3; Balotelli, Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana, Moreno, Rossiter, Sturridge, Suso 1
Swansea: Bony, Dyer 4; Routledge, Sigurðsson 2; Emnes, Gomis, Ki, Shelvey 1
Referee: Keith Stroud
This'll be the first Liverpool match that Keith Stroud has done.
Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Toure Skrtel Enrique
Markovic Lucas Henderson Coutinho
Play two strikers up front: either Lambert and Balotelli, as Mario could seemingly use all the match practice he can get, or Lambert and Borini, or even Balotelli or Borini – although I'd bet the farm on Lambert starting, as he captained the side in the last round.
Don't play Gerrard or Sterling. This one's self-explanatory.
Without Gerrard, there are few options in midfield, in regards to both personnel and shape. If Liverpool play two strikers – and I think I've emphasized that I hope they do – it's usually a diamond in midfield, but Liverpool played 4-2-2-2 after the changes against Hull, and that seems a possibility here: Lucas and either Henderson, Can, or Allen (probably Henderson) in the middle, Coutinho and Markovic on the flanks. If it's the diamond, it should be Lucas holding, two from Henderson, Allen, and Can as the wide players, and Coutinho as the #10. Maybe Rossiter's in contention again, but he doesn't seem as needed as in the last round.
Defensive alternatives are handcuffed by injuries. If either Sakho or Flanagan were fit, they'd assuredly feature. As they're not, it'll almost certain be Johnson, Enrique, and Toure, with one of Skrtel and Lovren starting and the other rested. I'm guessing Skrtel because at least Toure and Skrtel have played together before, but Rodgers does love him some Lovren. Maybe one of Manquillo or Moreno starts as well, but I doubt it. Mignolet played the last round, but I wouldn't be surprised if Brad Jones replaced him tomorrow, as it appears Jones will be the back-up until January at the least now that the Valdes move is dead.
Swansea played a quasi-second-string side in the 3-0 win over Everton in the last round – the usual mix of first-team players and stronger reserves – but I expect we'll see a stronger XI tomorrow. There will assuredly be some changes – players get tired even without midweek fixtures and they've got a difficult match at Everton on Saturday – but they're not as handicapped as Liverpool are by European competition and injuries.
Sigurðsson almost certainly won't be risked after picking up an injury on Saturday, while Tiendalli, Amat, Richards, and Britton are also likely to miss out. If forced to guess at an XI, it'd be Tremmel; Rangel, Williams, Fernandez, Taylor; Shelvey, Carroll, Ki; Dyer, Gomis, Montero. Kyle Bartley's also an option in defense or defensive midfield; Routledge could feature instead of Dyer or Montero; Emnes and Bony are also options up front. Maybe I'm guessing that Swansea rest Bony more out of hope than logic.
As always in this competition, and especially with Liverpool both struggling and in still in Europe, it's much more about the performance than the result. This competition is, by far, the lowest on the list of priorities. Don't get me wrong; given how poorly Liverpool have played of late, any port in a storm, and Liverpool could certainly use the confidence and momentum of a win, but keeping key players fresh and giving reserves a chance to impress seems far more important in the greater scheme of things.