31 December 2014

Liverpool v Leicester 01.01.15

10am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports Live Extra

Last four head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (a) 12.02.14
0-0 (a) 03.28.04
2-1 Liverpool (h) 09.20.03
1-0 Liverpool (h) 01.30.02

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 Swansea (h); 1-0 Burnley (a); 2-2 Arsenal (h)
Leicester: 1-0 Hull (a); 1-2 Tottenham (h); 0-2 West Ham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Lallana, Own Goal, Sterling 4; Gerrard 3; Coutinho, Henderson, Moreno 2; Can, Johnson, Lambert, Skrtel, Sturridge 1
Leicester: Ulloa 7; Cambiasso, Mahrez, Schlupp 2; Nugent, Vardy, Wood 1

Referee: Mike Jones

Guess at a line-up:
Can Toure Sakho
Henderson Gerrard Lucas Moreno
Coutinho Lallana

I'm afraid I've got some bad news.

That XI which was so much fun on Monday? It's gonna be a different XI tomorrow.

Skrtel's suspended, which means Lovren (if fit) or Toure's coming back into the side. That shouldn't preclude Liverpool playing three at the back, but it'll be interesting to see who the sweeper is with Skrtel missing. Not that Skrtel's a bastion of positional integrity, but neither Lovren nor Toure is known for their discipline, to say the least. Gerrard will also return after being rested, which means Henderson will either shift to wing-back or Lucas will be dropped. Moreno may keep his place, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Markovic back either.

I expect Liverpool to stick with the 3-4-3. With nine days until the next league match – albeit with the FA Cup trip to Wimbledon on Monday – I expect the front three to remain the same for at least one more match. I expect Liverpool to press and counter and be the better side, as they're at Anfield, but I don't expect as much fun as Monday was either. But maybe this season just has me even more jaded than usual.

Leicester remain at the bottom of the table, three points behind Burnley, Palace, and Hull, but they're coming off their first win since September 21, winning 1-0 at Hull on Sunday. A Hull side that Liverpool failed to beat at Anfield, I'll churlishly add.

Leicester have a fairly small squad, but there will be at least a couple of changes from the side which lost to Liverpool a month ago. Schmeichel is injured, Konchesky is suspended. Andy King, who didn't feature in the last meeting, is also out. Danny Simpson's been preferred to Ritchie de Laet at right-back in recent matches. Ulloa, Leicester's top scorer by some distances, actually seems the most likely candidate to be rested now that Vardy's back from suspension. But I still expect the XI to be familiar, a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation with something like Hamer; Simpson, Wasilewski, Morgan, Konchesky; Mahrez, James, Cambiasso, Schlupp; Ulloa, Vardy.

Leicester will sit even deeper than they did at home, with two solid banks of four, and dare Liverpool to carve them open. Swansea started similarly on Monday, but Liverpool's pressing and movement disjointed then broke those lines by the 33rd minute, and those lines were a moot point by the 51st. Can Liverpool do that again? Leicester blocked 45.5% of Liverpool's shots in the reverse fixture; only Chelsea, Sunderland, and Burnley have blocked a higher proportion of Liverpool's shots this season.

Simply put, Liverpool need to continue firing on all cylinders, and even with changes to the XI, need to put in a performance reminiscent of that on Monday. Prove that it wasn't a fluke. Prove that you weren't just playing up to the opposition's level, and the side's now better than the one which lost at Palace, drew against Hull and Sunderland, barely beat QPR, Burnley, and Stoke.

Begin to prove that the first half of 2015 will be more like the first half of 2014, even if Liverpool fail to hit those heady heights, and not like the second half of 2014.


Anonymous said...

Nate, come on now. Less bad news please. It's almost 2015.

At least we got to see what the team "can" look like. Without carrying passengers.

Anonymous said...

This guy has been correct last couple of games and he tweeted:


Mignolet – Emre Can, Touré, Sakho – Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas, Moreno – Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling.