Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was awarded the Manager of the Month gong for August this week, after guiding the club to the top of the Premier League table following the first three games, and the Northern Irishman returns to his old stomping ground against Swansea City on Monday evening, hoping to make their case, of being genuine top-four challengers this season, even stronger.
The Reds fended off Stoke City, Aston Villa and arch-rivals Manchester United in the opening month and Daniel Sturridge, who was also recognised as Player of the Month, has scored the winner in each of those games to also strengthen his reputation as England’s best striker at the moment.
Swansea picked themselves up after back-to-back defeats against David Moyes’ United and Tottenham Hotspur, with a win over West Bromwich Albion two weeks ago and the Swans will be looking to go into their Thursday night mouth-watering tie, away at Valencia in the UEFA Europa League group-stages, on the back of a strong result against their former boss.
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The hosts will desperately be hoping not to pick up any injuries ahead of their midweek glamour tie at the Mestalla, but they will be without Alan Tate (hamstring) and Neil Taylor (thigh) whilst Nathan Dyer (hamstring) is doubtful and deadline day loan signing Álvaro Vázquez could make his debut.
Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen (hamstring) will miss the game against his previous paymasters in a long list of absentees for the visitors including: Aly Cissokho (ankle), Glen Johnson and Sebastián Coates (both knee) and Luis Suarez (suspended), with Sturridge (thigh) and Kolo Touré (groin) set for late fitness tests – both Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses are in line for potential debuts.
Possible Team Line-ups and Brief Tactical Analysis
Rodgers has evidently worked hard during the course of the summer to make sure Liverpool can operate with more defensive solidity, especially when they’re without the ball, with Christian Benteke and Robin Van Persie both struggling to have any sort of impact against their backline this season, and Monday’s fixture will again shed light on how well they press the ball when Swansea look to take control of possession.
Liverpool may show up at the Liberty Stadium with a similar game plan to the one which worked well against Villa and United by staying resolute, with Jordan Henderson likely to drop back at times and do the running for Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, if Michu becomes a threat when bursting through the final third during the game, whilst remaining dangerous in attack through their potent trio of Sturridge, Iago Aspas and Philippe Coutinho.
But the Merseysiders, who had 52.6% possession overall against Villa, will easily keep hold of the ball themselves, when they seize it, and it will be interesting to see how Swansea’s midfield pairing of Jonjo Shelvey and José Cañas fare in the defensive tracking of the free roaming duo Aspas and Coutinho, just behind Sturridge.
Cañas and Shelvey will want to dictate the tempo of the game through their crisp blend of passing in the centre, whilst Àngel Rangel and Ben Davies will both push forward when possible to support Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernández out wide, waiting for Michu to make his late runs into the box to aid Wilfried Bony.
With Glen Johnson out injured for several weeks, Andre Wisdom is likely to get the nod at right back – although a 3-4-3 formation boasting Skrtel, Sakho and Agger in the centre of defence, with Wisdom and Enrique both as wing-backs isn’t out of the question – and that is an area in which Michael Laudrup may want to try and exploit by potentially interchanging Routledge and Hernández during the match.
Swansea were extremely dangerous down the flanks against West Brom, with both Davies and Hernández scoring, and the Spaniard’s clever feet could cause England U21 captain Wisdom a few problems, should he be deployed on the left rather than on the right throughout the game.
This is the first time in Liverpool’s history that they have won their opening three games of a top-flight season whilst also keeping three cleansheets in each game, and they have never started a Premier League campaign with four straight wins.
The last time Swansea recorded a Premier League win at home was back in March against Newcastle United (2-0) and haven’t won in their last six since (D2 L4).
A victory over Swansea would be Liverpool’s 400th win in the Premier League and they are currently enjoying a five-match winning streak, with Daniel Sturridge scoring 11 goals in his last nine games for the club in all competitions.
Only Yaya Toure (267) has attempted more passes than José Cañas (235) so far this season, whilst Chico Flores has made the joint-most clearances with 33.
Check out the latest odds concerning Swansea City vs. Liverpool and all the other Premier League matches with Pinnacle Sports.
Swansea will look to use their width and pace in order to get balls into the box for Michu, and although Liverpool have been incredibly solid in their opening three games, Wilfried Bony is a completely different type of striker to what they’ve already faced – and the Ivorian proved at Vitesse Arnhem last season, he scores from any sort of spillages in and around the box.
Liverpool have earned mass plaudits, and rightly so, for keeping the likes of Benteke and Van Persie, two of the Premier League’s finest strikers, quiet during 90 minutes; but, Bony is a great poacher, who has no qualms about taking opportunities first time and him and Michu together will pose a bigger threat aerially than what Rodgers has had to plan for so far this season.
Benteke is big and powerful, whilst Van Persie is hard to track and crafts goals from nothing, but Bony is an intelligent striker who pulls off all different kinds of finishes, and his record at burying chances against the big clubs in the Eredivisie last season (top goal scorer with 31 strikes) was equally impressive.
He already has one Premier League goal under his belt, which came out of nowhere against Manchester United, and in a game that could see ball retention being key and not a lot of shots to test either goalkeeper, that one great chance that could possibly come for Swansea, may pay dividends purely due to Bony’s skill.
Sturridge has been the main man for Liverpool so far this season and by grabbing all the headlines, he has made himself an easy candidate for their man to watch, but with Shelvey, Cañas and Michu all being excellent at controlling games for Swansea through midfield, Lucas Leiva will need to break up play in his own half and feed the likes of Coutinho, Henderson and Aspas in order to get Sturridge thriving in the match.
Gerrard and Henderson will defend well when called upon and create moves at the same time, but the Brazilian’s importance to Rodgers’ way of playing shouldn’t be understated, and although he can be lax at times, Lucas is overall a brilliant ball winner, recovering the ball 10 times, making 6 interceptions and also winning 100% (5/5) of his tackles against Manchester United, and stopping Michu and Bony from linking up would be a triumph in this game.
It’s a match that will feature two of the best footballing teams in the division, who both love to dominate possession and cap it off with pleasing-on-the-eye team goals.
Liverpool couldn’t be arriving in the South Wales in greater form, but the absence of Toure against Bony could be something to watch whilst Coutinho’s frequent dropping off the shoulder and cutting inside with vigour against Rangel, is another tasty battle that could prove to be pivotal in splitting the sides.
Prediction: 1-1 (Tips: Bony to score and Coutinho to grab an assist)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Odds via Pinnacle Sports
Swansea City to win: 3.58 (Place a £10 bet to win £35.80)
Liverpool to win: 2.23 (Place a £10 bet to win £22.30)
Draw: 3.42 (Place a £10 bet to win £34.20)