26 October 2018

Liverpool v Cardiff City 10.27.18

10am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
6-3 Liverpool (a) 03.22.14
3-1 Liverpool (h) 12.21.13
2-2 Liverpool aet (n; League Cup) 02.26.12
2-1 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 10.31.07

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Red Star (h); 1-0 Huddersfield (a); 0-0 City (h)
Cardiff: 4-2 Fulham (h); 0-1 Tottenham (a); 1-2 Burnley (h)

Goal scorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané, Salah 4; Firmino, Sturridge 2; Matip, Milner, Wijnaldum 1
Cardiff: J Murphy 2; Bamba, Camarasa, Harris, Paterson, Reid, Ward 1

Referee: Stuart Attwell (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Fabinho Milner
Salah Firmino Mané

There’s a very good argument for not changing the XI from Wednesday.

I mean, y’all saw the match. Liverpool were good. Liverpool were creative. Liverpool scored four and could have had a few more and didn’t even allow a single shot on-target. And it was the first time in a while we could say those things about the attack.

So why change?

Maybe Liverpool shouldn’t. There will be a week before traveling to Arsenal, Liverpool without a midweek game. Cardiff will do some things similarly to Red Star. Liverpool were both more creative and even more secure through the middle with Wednesday’s formation and XI.

But Klopp rotates. Liverpool have a reasonably large squad – even with Keïta and Henderson still absent – and Liverpool want to use that squad. Klopp spent some of today’s press conference talking up Origi, Solanke, Clyne, and Matip – players who’ve barely if at all featured so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two names we don’t expect nor would I be surprised to see a return to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation – a formation that Fabinho will have to acclimatize to at some point.

So the above guess is a hedge between those factors. Even if it is desperately unfair to Shaqiri, who has been excellent in the last two matches. Heck, maybe I should just guess the same XI as last time.

Meanwhile, Cardiff may have just gotten their first win last week, but it’s been an understandably difficult road to this point. They’ve already hosted Arsenal and Manchester City and travelled to Chelsea and Tottenham, losing 2-3, 0-5, 1-4, and 0-1 in those matches. This’ll be their tenth games of the campaign and five of them will have been against last season’s top six. The last two recent losses prior to Fulham were a lot narrower, one-goal defeats to Burnley and Tottenham, only losing 1-0 at Spurs despite conceding in the eighth minute and having a player sent off in the 58th.

Without any real point of comparison, my best guess is the same XI that beat Fulham. Etheridge; Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Camarasa, Gunnarsson, Arter, J Murphy; Reid; Paterson. Ralls will miss out in midfield, serving the second of a three-match ban for a red card at Tottenham, but Aron Gunnarsson’s finally fit, having made his first start in the last match. Camarasa can pay both centrally or out wide; Paterson has started up top lately but can also play deeper. Cardiff could start Hoilett out wide or Danny Ward (not that one) or Gary Madine up front if changes are to be made.

Neil Warnock has never won as manager at Anfield, losing 4-0 with Notts County, 2-0 and 4-0 with Sheffield United, and 1-0 with Queens Park Rangers, but he did win his last match against Liverpool during his short reign as Palace manager, 1-3 at Palace in November 2014.

And Warnock’s already talking down his side’s potential, saying that it’s “virtually impossible” to win at Anfield these days. He’s not necessarily wrong, even if that is gamesmanship to put even more pressure on Liverpool while taking it off his side. “Oh, poor us, we’ll never get anything” and then if they do get anything, break out the bus we’re having a parade.

Cardiff, unsurprisingly, are a very Championship squad playing a very Championship style. It’s what Neil Warnock knows, it’s what Neil Warnock’s always done. They’re strong in the air and at set plays. They absolutely love crosses. Josh Murphy, Reid, and Hoillett are quick on the counter. They’re rugged and deep defensively. They want next to nothing to do with the ball, joint-lowest in possession along with Brighton and with the worst passing accuracy in the league by far.

The Brighton comparison actually works reasonably well. Chris Hughton’s side was built in a similar manner, plays a similar style. And Brighton gave Liverpool problems two months ago, holding Liverpool reasonably at bay at Anfield despite an early goal from Salah and multiple Liverpool chances, even nearly finding an equalizer through Groß’ late clear-cut chance.

Liverpool nearly dropped two points in that Brighton match because of an inability to convert their own chances, something we’ve complained about multiple times this season. We certainly weren’t complaining about that on Wednesday – well, “complain” isn’t the right word; Liverpool scored four but another two or three wouldn’t have flattered.

More of that please. We know that Liverpool are capable of doing so.

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