These two sides head into this game separated by just three points and one league position with a win for either side potentially very damaging for the other team. Liverpool, as the ninth placed side who are already seven points off the top four, probably have the most to lose with a win the only acceptable result in this home tie. However, Swansea will be in confident mood after two consecutive 1-0 wins so an easy festive run out is probably off the cards for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Liverpool head into this game with several injuries to first team members which are limiting Rodgers’ options.
Goalkeeper Brad Jones, part of the farcical Liverpool ‘keeper situation, is struggling with a thigh injury after being withdrawn against Burnley on Boxing Day. That means the much maligned Simon Mignolet will start in goal for the Reds. Centre-back Dejan Lovren could make his return after a groin strain – although some Liverpool supporters might wish he’d stay injured with Mamadou Sakho performing well to help earn a clean sheet last time out.
Full-backs Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan are both missing with groin and knee injuries respectively – although Flanagan is back in training. Joe Allen remains out with a knee injury whilst Daniel Sturridge is still some way off full fitness with his thigh strain.
Swansea’s squad is in a much fitter state with Garry Monk able to pick an almost full side. Leon Britton (knee) and pacey attacker Jefferson Montero (hamstring) are the only concerns for Monk at the moment.
- After just one goal being scored in the first three Premier League games between these two clubs, there have been 16 in the last three.
- There have been three goals scored in the opening five minutes of the last two league meetings between the two.
- Ex-Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey has scored in both his appearances against his former team.
- Liverpool have won just two of their last eight Premier League games at Anfield (W2, D4, L2).
- Victory over Hull last time out ended a run of six away league games without a win for Swansea (D2, L4).
Is Raheem Sterling back? The fact that a 20 year old can ever be “gone” to start with is an example of how cruel and twisted football can be but alas Sterling’s form seems to be improving once more. Without a goal for three months, Sterling seemed to have melted under intense expectation and physical fatigue but two goals away to Bournemouth in the League Cup Quarter-Final seemed to lift the youngster and another goal against Burnley on Boxing Day will have helped his confidence grow once again.
The season may not have yielded the desired success for player and club so far but some of the England international’s outputs are competitive. Four goals in 18 league appearances doesn’t sound great but his play in other areas remains impressive. The winger turned “false 9” has completed 56 out of 106 attempted take-ons – these lung busting dribbles are what have kept Liverpool within challenging distance for the top four. Sterling has also created an impressive 45 chances for his teammates – a figure just shaded by Alexis Sanchez, six years his senior. The England winger is also a tenacious player defensively. So far this term, he’s come out on top in 18 out of 39 attempted tackles – Steven Gerrard once described him as the strongest Liverpool player in terms of pound for pound.
The revival is well and truly on for Gylfi Sigurdsson. Casually discarded by Tottenham Hotspur, Sigurdsson’s decision to join the slick Swansea City seems to have been a master stroke with goals and assists a regular output from the Icelandic player.
After scoring the winner against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, Liverpool should be well aware of the player they tried to sign in 2012. Not only is Sigurdsson deadly from set plays, he’s also dangerous and precise from open play with a passing accuracy of 85% to go along with his 42 created chances. Sigurdsson has also completed 18 out of 36 attempted take-ons. However, the versatile Sigurdsson is not just a luxury player he’s also useful off the ball with the midfielder completing 21 interceptions.
Liverpool’s fragile defenders will do well to stop him for 90 minutes.
My prediction for this game is a narrow home win. Liverpool know – or at least they should – that anything but a win here coupled with the wrong results elsewhere means their top four challenge is over, so my theory is that this threat will spur them on. We’ll soon see, 2-1 Liverpool.