28 December 2014

Liverpool v Swansea 12.29.14

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 10.28.14
4-3 Liverpool (h) 02.23.14
2-2 (a) 09.16.13
5-0 Liverpool (h) 02.17.13

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Burnley (a); 2-2 Arsenal (h); 3-1 Bournemouth (a)
Burnley: 1-0 Villa (h); 1-0 Hull (a); 1-2 Tottenham (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sterling 4; Gerrard, Own Goal 3; Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana 2; Can, Johnson, Lambert, Moreno, Skrtel, Sturridge 1
Swansea: Bony 8; Dyer, Ki, Routledge, Sigurðsson 3; Gomis, Shelvey 1

Referee: Andre Marriner

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

Brad Jones' injury means that Mignolet will have to come back into the side, no matter how Rodgers wants to handle the goalkeeping situation (read: horror show). Regardless of how long Jones is out, Liverpool simply have to buy a keeper in the upcoming window, but that's neither here nor there tomorrow. Mignolet has a couple of matches to prove he was worth the transfer, to prove he has any sort of future at Liverpool, and has to take advantage.

Otherwise, I don't know how much Rodgers will rotate the side. You'd think there would have to be some, but Rodgers often subscribes to the 'if it ain't broke' theory, especially when the side's eking out positive results.

At least one of Gerrard or Lucas seem most in need of a rest, but Lucas has become crucial to this formation – despite his faults, no other midfielder is as good at protecting the space in front of the center-backs – and Gerrard remains Gerrard. Markovic was below par at Burnley compared to his performances in the previous two matches, so Moreno could come into the side. Can did well in the second half against Burnley, and could keep his place in defense, while Lovren should be fit again soon, possibly in time for tomorrow's match.

The one area where I'd be surprised to see changes is up front. Sterling, Coutinho, and Lallana are starting to click as a unit. Both Balotelli and Lambert would slow down the attack, which is the trio's greatest strength. That Liverpool are at home should mean more pressing up front, something neither striker is well equipped for, although both have "tried" to fill that role more than at their previous clubs. And I'd be very surprised if Liverpool switched away from the 3-4-2-1 formation.

Swansea will have revenge on their minds tomorrow. For the late League Cup loss, for last season's pulsating 4-3. It doesn't hurt that Swansea and Liverpool are next to each other in the table, with three points separating the two sides.

And there are also a few players with a point to prove against Liverpool. First and foremost, Jonjo Shelvey, but also Wilfred Bony – rumored to be a major target both last summer and in the future – and Gylfi Sigurðsson, who turned down Liverpool in the summer of 2012 to join Tottenham. And Swansea are still a side packed with players from Brendan Rodgers' tenure as manager.

As with Liverpool, I'm not sure how much Swansea will rotate. The first-choice XI would be Fabianski; Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor; Ki, Shelvey; Dyer, Sigurðsson, Routledge; Bony. But that's pretty much the same XI which played on Boxing Day save for Montero, who's out with a hamstring injury. But Richards could come in at right-back, Bartley in central defense, Tom Carroll in midfield (as could Britton, who'll have to pass a late fitness test), Emnes on the left or up front, or Gomis up front. But I suspect, as with Liverpool, it'll be as near to full-strength as possible.

Liverpool finally won a close away match while keeping a clean sheet on Boxing Day. Against Bournemouth and Arsenal, Liverpool demonstrated a bit of potency which had been sorely lacking too often this season. Now, Liverpool need to combine those facets, to put together a comprehensive performance. They'll be aided by being at Anfield, where they've been marginally better this season.

Because Liverpool will need a comprehensive performance to beat Swansea, a side much more potent than Burnley and slightly more secure at the back than Arsenal. This will be one of Liverpool's more difficult matches during this crucial festive schedule, and they simply have to rise to the occasion.

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