KC Stadium, Kingston Upon Hull
December 01, 2013; 14:05 GMT
Liverpool FC and Hull City AFC are both teams that will be fairly satisfied with their current league positions (2nd and 14th, respectively), but worried by the recent run of form. Over the last 5 games, Liverpool FC have managed to win only 2 games, having played two draws against Everton and Newcastle United. Hull City have picked up only 3 points from these last 5 games, including an embarrassing defeat to Crystal Palace, who scored after going down to 10 men, last week.
Hull City have scored only four goals at home this season, a count that includes two penalties and an own goal. Sone Aluko’s injury has meant that manager Steve Bruce has used Yannick Sagbo to lead the line recently. Striker Danny Graham will have mixed feelings about seeing Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: he’s the man Graham was playing under during his best season till date the 2011-12 season at Swansea City, when he scored 12 goals. He is on loan from Sunderland, but has been unable to secure a regular starting spot with Hull City.
Liverpool FC forward Daniel Sturridge is unlikely to be available after picking up an injury while in training meaning Luis Suarez will have to play up front without his favorite strike partner. The pair have been exceptionally ruthless against teams at the bottom end of the table with 3 or more goals against each of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Fulham. Manager Brendan Rodgers is fairly flexible with his formations and tactics, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the Englishman’s absence.
Hull City AFC – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Manager Steve Bruce was already without his favored front-man Sone Aluko, and now defender Paul McShane will also need to be replaced in the starting line-up due to a hamstring injury. With Aaron McLean being sent off to Birmingham City on an emergency loan deal, the goal-scoring responsibilities rest firmly on Yannick Sagbo’s shoulders. He is hardly the most prolific of finishers, with only 2 goals scored so far this season, but is Hull’s best option as the forward-most focal point of attack. George Boyd is likely to retain his role on the left flank with Stephen Quinn being unavailable. Steve Bruce would go into this game with very few expectations, seeing how Hull City have been hit with injuries to key personnel and haven’t won against any team in the top half of the table with the exception of Newcastle United. Considering that their only real aim for the season must be to stay in the Premier League, this isn’t really a bad thing. If they continue to beat fellow relegation battlers and draw other bottom half teams, they can easily secure another year in the top flight of English football.
Former Tottenham Hotspur player Tom Huddlestone and Tottenham loanee Jake Livermore are a strong pairing in the center of midfield. If both of them turn up with good performances, not just individually but also as a team, they have the potential to outplay Liverpool counterparts Lucas Leiva & Steven Gerrard. While Livermore has been fairly consistent in his athletic box-to-box role, Huddlestone looks like he has room to step up his game a notch from his recent performances. Robbie Brady returned from injury recently, but against Crystal Palace he looked a shell of himself. He is a lively attacking threat, and Bruce will have to think hard about using him in a match where they have little hope of winning. Perhaps playing him only one half would do the trick. Hull’s best hope is to get compact and narrow, and then attack down the wings on the break. A cross to Sagbo is the most likely route to goal for them.
The real challenge for Bruce will be structuring his back-line. He has alternated between a 5-man defence and a regular 4-man back line. But with James Chester still approaching full fitness after his hamstring injury and McShane also being unavailable, a 4 at the back approach seems like the right way to go. Alex Bruce, who happens to be Steve Bruce’s son, is likely to step in to partner Curtis Davies. Even without Sturridge, Liverpool has enough attacking firepower in the likes of Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Victor Moses to hurt Hull.
Hull City AFC Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-1-1): McGregor (GK); Elmohamady, Davies, Bruce, Figueroa; Koren, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd; Brady; Sagbo
Liverpool FC – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Manager Brendan Rodgers is without Iago Aspas and Jose Enrique who both have long-term injuries, while Daniel Sturridge looks unlikely to feature due to an injury during training. Joe Flanagan is likely to feature after having a standout performance against Everton last week which earned him high praise from all quarters.
Rodgers’ has been playing around with formations and tactics throughout this season, constantly seeking the best shape to deploy his favorite players. One of his favorite formations is the 4-2-3-1 which was most prominent during Liverpool’s purple patch during Suarez’s suspension. Daniel Sturridge led the line with great aplomb, scoring in every game, while Philippe Coutinho was excellent in his Number 10 role. Rodgers’ is most likely to use a similar setup against Hull, with Suarez as the sole striker, and Victor Moses taking up the left attacking midfield role. This would basically be the same midfield and attack that played in the match against Swansea City that ended 2-2. While Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva should form the central midfield double pivot as usual, Rodgers would do well to give Joe Allen some game time if the team are in a comfortable position by the end of the first half. He is a key cog in Rodgers roadmap, but considering that he has not had a decent string of appearances since returning from injury, he is not ideal for the 2-man central pairing which will line-up against Huddlestone and Livermore.
Martin Skrtel will need to be aware of Sagbo’s threat, especially from balls coming in from the wings. To that effect, Flanagan will need to have another strong outing as he will be defending the flank that is Hull City’s strongest attacking outlet. While 33 year old Koren is an experienced midfielder who will drift in from the right, Elmohamady will regularly make overlapping runs and try to cross into the box. ‘Elmo’ is a better attacking threat than he is a defender: this mean that if Victor Moses (or whichever player features on the left of midfield) doesn’t keep him busy, he will give Flanagan a torrid time. Flanagan is after all a right-back being played on the left, and is as such better suited for battling midfielders who cut inside than ones who hug the touch-line.
Liverpool FC Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Mignolet (GK); Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Gerrard, Lucas; Henderson, Coutinho, Moses; Suarez
- Hull City have scored a total of 9 goals this season, while Liverpool have scored 24.
- Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has an impressive average Saves per Game ratio of 3.17, against Hull City’s Allan McGregor’s 2.11.
- Tom Huddlestone’s has created 22 chances on goal this season, far more than any other Hull City player (second highest is Jake Livermore with 14). The only player in the two teams to have a higher chance creation count is Steven Gerrard with 30.
Statistics Source: Squawka
Players to Watch Out For
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Hull City have scored a total of 9 goals this season. This is the same number of goals Luis Suarez has scored during the season, despite being suspended for the first 5 games. That’s nearly 1.3 goals per game, a stunning tally by any measure. These are probably the same stats Steve Bruce was looking at when he stated that Brendan Rodgers’ handling of the Suarez transfer saga was “his biggest achievement so far”. He might miss having Sturridge for company up front, but will also enjoy the opportunity to feature as a lone striker. The Uruguayan is in exceptional form, and out of the 22 players that will be on the pitch, he stands head and shoulders above any other player in goal-scoring ability.
Hull City 0 – 3 Liverpool
Liverpool FC have been steamrolling over weaker opposition, and Hull City are perfect candidates for a goal rout. Their greatest threat is only their own complacency: 90 minutes of concentration from the Liverpool personnel should be more than sufficient to tear apart an injury hit Hull City.
Blast from the past