20 December 2018

Liverpool at Wolves 12.21.18

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 Wolves (h; FA Cup) 28.01.17
3-0 Liverpool (a) 31.01.12
2-1 Liverpool (h) 09.24.11
3-0 Liverpool (a) 01.22.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 United (h); 1-0 Napoli (h); 4-0 Bournemouth (h)
Wolves: 2-0 Bournemouth (h); 2-1 Newcastle (a); 2-1 Chelsea (h)

Goal-scorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 10; Mané 7; Shaqiri 5; Firmino 4; Milner 3; Sturridge 2; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Origi, Wijnaldum 1
Wolves: Jimenez 5; Cavaleiro, Doherty 3; Jota, Neves 2; Boly, Jonny, Moutinho, Traore 1

Referee: Craig Pawson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Lovren van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Fabinho
Shaqiri Firmino Mané

We're about enter the absolute meat of the festive season, but Liverpool have it easier than most, with five days until the next match and the most rest days of any side during the next two weeks. They aren't the softest of fixtures – Arsenal at home, City away, and this match, away at an unsurprisingly competent promoted side – but Liverpool will at least have a few days off between each.

So I'm unsure just how much rotation we'll see tomorrow. But this season's Liverpool often has me unsure as to how much rotation we'll see, in any match.

Milner may return tomorrow. Alexander-Arnold will probably be back for the next match, although this comes too soon. So chances are Clyne stays at right back. And both Matip and Gomez are out for a few more weeks, so unless we're throwing one of the babies in, Lovren and van Dijk will remain the center-backs. Otherwise, it'll basically be first-choice available in every position. The questions are whether Klopp thinks all those first-choice players can handle the work load, who Klopp actually considers first-choice, and what formation they'll be playing in.

So, as has become typical with this season's previews, I've thrown my hands up and guessed almost exactly what we saw against United, but with Shaqiri coming in for Keïta. Because why the hell not. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Henderson in midfield, or 4-3-3. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of near-permanent players rested, whether it's Robertson or Wijnaldum or Firmino or Mané. Sturridge remains an option up front, in either preferred formation used this season.

Having four games over 13 days will tell us quite a bit about how Klopp sees this squad. And how good this squad actually is.

Meanwhile, Wolves. Before the start of the season, they threatened to be one of the strongest promoted sides in recent memory, and so far they've proven to be so. They're currently seventh, a point behind United in the race to be best of the rest. Sure, they wobbled in October and November, losing five and drawing once, but have won three in a row since, including a 2-1 home win over Chelsea.

Nuno Espirito Santo has stuck with a three at-the-back formation of late, whether 3-4-2-1, 3-4-3, or 3-4-1-2. Tomorrow's suggested to be 3-4-1-2 given the way that 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White has played recently. He's likely to sit in the hole behind two strikers, but has also played as the most advanced attacker.

So it'll be something like Rui Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Gibbs-White; Jimenez, Costa. Diego Jota is out injured, picking up a hamstring problem in last weekend's match. Adama Traore has been a substitute more often than not, but could be used for his pace on the counter, while Ivan Cavaleiro is another option in attack. Special mention for Liverpool Academy graduate Conor Coady, who's established himself as both a center-back – used primarily as a defensive midfielder when at Liverpool – and Wolves' captain.

Wolves have been excellent against the top-six so far this season, losing to Tottenham at home but beating Chelsea and drawing with City, Arsenal, and United. They're very good on the counter and good at not conceding, with only Tottenham, Chelsea, City, and Liverpool allowing fewer goals. They've only kept five league clean sheets but have only conceded more than twice in one match this season: the aforementioned 2-3 loss to Tottenham.

But Liverpool have been excellent against almost everyone, dominating few but beating most. Still, this isn't your usual match against promoted opposition, with Wolves far better than the usual promoted opposition and a packed fixture list about to get even more full. This can't be the place where Liverpool slip up.