30 September 2016

Liverpool at Swansea 10.01.16

7:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-3 Swansea (a) 05.01.15
1-0 Liverpool (h) 11.29.15
1-0 Liverpool (a) 03.16.15
4-1 Liverpool (h) 12.29.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 5-1 Hull (h); 3-0 Derby (a); 2-1 Chelsea (a)
Swansea: 1-3 City (h); 1-2 City (h); 0-1 Southampton (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Coutinho, Lallana, Mané, Milner 3; Firmino 2; Henderson, Lovren 1
Swansea: Fer 3; Llorente, Sigurðsson 1

Referee: Michael Oliver

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Lovren Milner
Lallana Henderson Wijnaldum
Mané Firmino Coutinho

Guessing Liverpool's line-up has become somewhat simple. Yes, there's competition for places. Yes, there are players who could seemingly slot right in. But, as you may have noticed, Liverpool are playing quite well, and once again, the only question seems whether or not there will be a place for Daniel Sturridge. Well, as long as there are no illnesses or black eyes or controversies about doing stupid things while driving and filming it for the club's website, right Dejan?

It's weird to see Liverpool's "best XI" without a healthy Sturridge. I'm still not entirely convinced that Liverpool wouldn't be better with him starting in these matches away from home against a deep-lying defense; sure, Liverpool did just fine carving open Hull, but that was at Anfield. This is a new season, but I still very much remember the last. That Origi will probably be absent with a minor foot injury also makes it more likely Sturridge left on the bench, potentially needed as a game-changing attacker.

Otherwise, same as. After six games, we know what Klopp's preferred XI looks like and it's humming along nicely.

Meanwhile, Swansea certainly haven't had the best start to the season. They're winless in the last five. They've conceded at least once in every match since opening day. There's already talk of Bob Bradley, of all people, replacing Guidolin. You know, the caretaker manager from last January who was given a permanent deal just a couple of months ago. Maybe that leads to Guidolin and his side bursting out of the gates, fighting to save the manager's job. Or maybe it leads to players not all that bothered and more of the same disappointment. Here's hoping for the latter, obviously.

However, in Swansea's defense, they haven't been truly bad despite said results and league position. Two of those losses were narrow defeats to Leicester and Southampton. They drew against Chelsea, coming back from a deficit to take a 2-1 lead before Costa's late equalizer. Swansea it kept it reasonably close against Manchester City in both recent matches, including equalizing four minutes after City opened the scoring in the league meeting, until conceding twice in the last 25 minutes.

Swansea's line-up also seems fairly safe to predict. Fabianski; Rangel, Amat, van der Hoorn, Naughton; Cork, Britton; Routledge, Fer, Sigurðsson; Llorente. Both Fernandez and Dyer are out through injury; it'll be either van der Hoorn or Kingsley taking up Fernandez's usual role in defense. Swansea started with three at the back against Chelsea, but changed before halftime, prompting the renaissance which earned them a point. Jefferson Montero's an option out wide, Ki's an option in midfield, and both Barrow or Borja are options up front. Borja is Swansea's record signing but has been limited to just two substitute appearances thanks to a thigh issue. If Borja's fit enough to start, 4-4-2 seems a possibility, with Britton the most likely left out.

Liverpool fans being Liverpool fans, I'll still be able to find the clouds behind all these silver linings. And while Hull went a long way towards assuaging concerns about Liverpool's problems against the bottom half, I can't help but remind that was at Anfield rather than away. Away matches remain a concern, as against Burnley this season, as against Watford, Newcastle, etc last season.

And it doesn't help that Liverpool have won at Swansea just once since their promotion in 2011-12 – a narrow 1-0 win in 2014-15 – with two draws and two losses in the other matches. Sure, last season doesn't really count: a much-changed XI with Liverpool focused on the Europa League, including a very raw, very young, and very over-run midfield. That won't be Liverpool tomorrow. But Liverpool second best at the start, Liverpool conceding early, and Liverpool unable to come back, well, those are Liverpools we've seen before.

It's simply the next stop on the "correct the long-standing faults, prove this is a better team, and prove you're top-four and/or title contenders" tour. Do what you've done before (excepting, yes, that one match we keep harping on), and it'll be a successful one.

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