Hope is very fickle in football. One half of bad football and all hope is lost and one emphatic victory and everything seems fine. Two teams that ended their bad runs in each of their last matches, will meet on in game week 10 to see whose hope is fickle and who seems to be doing fine. Liverpool will host Cardiff City on Saturday afternoon.
Liverpool fans and Jurgen Klopp must be very happy with the result they achieved on Wednesday night against Red Star Belgrade at home. Gone was the ponderous and sketchy movement of the game against Huddersfield and back were the attacking runs that yielded so many goals for the Reds last season. Indeed, Liverpool scored 4 goals against the Serbian champions and it is fair to say that they could have scored a few more. While it was a dominant performance from the Reds, they had to grow in to it as their visitors did not allow them too much room and played well in the first half. Klopp must hope that the Reds continue their winning ways and dominance against Cardiff City – a side that has not beaten Liverpool in almost 60 years. Manchester City’s game at Wembley against Spurs gives Klopp’s side a great chance of topping the table and gaining a small lead
Cardiff have had one of the toughest starts a side can have in Premier League. After Saturday, they will have played all but Manchester United in the Big Six. After drawing against Huddersfield in August end, Cardiff had lost all (six) their games in all competitions. But, they have pulled themselves out of the relegation zone with a 4-2 victory over Fulham last week. Although this scoreline suggests an attacking team, Cardiff City scored as many goals in that win as they did in their previous eight Premier League games this season. Neil Warnock has developed a strong defensive side that can be very difficult to score against. Earlier in October, Cardiff stifled Tottenham with their defence, allowing 19 shots, 7 on target, a total xG of 3.59 but conceded only a single goal. If the Bluebirds want to continue their climb in the table on Saturday, that sort of heroic defending will definitely be needed.
- Liverpool and Cardiff City last met in the 2013-14 season, when the Reds won both the games – 3-1 at home and 6-3 away. Cardiff have not won against Liverpool in a long time, their last win against the Reds coming in 1959 in the second tier, although it was at Anfield.
- Liverpool have lost just one of their last 45 home Premier League matches against the newly promoted teams (W35 D9). They have won all seven of their games against newly promoted sides under Jurgen Klopp. Cardiff on the other hand, have lost 14 of their last 15 Premier League matches against the Big Six opponents and have conceded two or more goals in 12 of those games.
- If Liverpool fans are afraid of another dull game, they might be in for some luck. There have been at least three goals scored in each of the last 10 meetings between Liverpool and Cardiff in all competitions, with 45 goals scored in total.
- Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has managed in four away games at Anfield, losing every time, with his sides never scoring a goal. A continuation of that trend would suit Alisson, who is looking to become the second Liverpool goalkeeper in Premier League history to keep seven clean sheets in 10 starts and thus equal Pepe Reina’s record.
With three goals in two games, it seems Mohamed Salah never suffered a small goal drought. His open play goals against Huddersfield and Red Star Belgrade surely suggested that if he had suffered a goal drought, it is now a thing of the past. The Egyptian has already contributed five goals in the league so far, scoring four and assisting one, with an xG90 of 0.73 and xA90 of 0.24. If he plays full 90 minutes, at least one goal contribution is almost guaranteed.
Despite scoring 4 against Fulham at home, Neil Warnock’s side’s best bet on Saturday is to stifle Liverpool’s scoring chances. Their main man for achieving that will likely be Sol Bamba. The Ivory Coast central defender has featured in 8 of Cardiff’s 10 games in all competitions. Being 6’3”, Bamba is good in the air, winning 66% of his aerial duels and his clearance-block-interception numbers indicate that he stops at least 12 attacking moves from the opponents in every game. For Cardiff to achieve a respectable scoreline on Saturday, Bamba is required to put in a good performance.
For Liverpool, Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson are unlikely to play on Saturday, while Fabinho’s performance on Wednesday night might earn him another start. Shaqiri might get another chance due to the same reason. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Divock Origi might provide options off the bench but it is unlikely that Klopp will tinker too much with the side that won in Champions League during the midweek.
For Cardiff City, Joe Ralls serves the second of his three-match ban, meaning Neil Warnock will likely stick to the same XI that won against Fulham. Aron Gunnarsson is back from injury and should start at Anfield, while Gary Madine, who has returned from illness should also be available for Cardiff.
Liverpool’s improvement in form and past dominance over their visitors suggests that it should be an easy victory for the Reds.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Cardiff City