Liverpool host rock-bottom Swansea City at home, with current caretaker manager Leon Britton hoping for some festive magic on Tuesday.
The first half of the Premier League has already seen all potential turns as far as Liverpool’s season is concerned. A thunderous start backed by a flurry of goals was followed with multiple draws and surrender of games from leading positions. The Reds though, still stand fairly decent at fourth on the table.
At Swansea, the season already looked over by the end of the summer transfer window. The departure of Gylfi Sigurdsson was never really offset with the arrival of a similar player and its impact was evident in the club’s displays. The results finally saw Paul Clement receive his marching orders.
Leon Britton is the current man at the helm now, albeit only as caretaker manager, while also being eligible to take the field as a player. The midfielder will hope to instil some inspiration within the squad ahead the trip to Anfield on Boxing Day.
Ahead of the Boxing Day encounter, let us take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
On the personnel front, there is a bit of bad news with Jordan Henderson unlikely to make it to the matchday squad after being forced to come off early in the 3-3 draw against Arsenal. Daniel Sturridge remains a doubt, which might make Jurgen Klopp’s selection for the tie a bit easier.
The manager is likely to rotate the squad a bit, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Loris Karius, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum all in contention to start on Tuesday. Joel Matip should be involved to some extent, after failing to prove his fitness for the Arsenal fixture.
Liverpool have to do something to improve their mental conditioning, especially when the side has the task of holding a lead. The Reds surrendered a two-goal lead against Arsenal as well and came close to losing the match.
Klopp’s gegenpressing had a great effect on opponents early on, but the manager seems to have been found out by his peers. Liverpool’s brittle defence has become easy to break down and the goalkeeping options have failed to instil much confidence either.
Klopp will continue with his philosophy, but could add an extra layer of cover for the defence with the inclusion of Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield.
As far as tactics are concerned, Klopp will likely stick to his 4-3-3 formation. But, he could start a more natural forward in the form of Dominic Solanke.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Klavan, Matip, Robertson; Can, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Like Klopp, Swansea caretaker manager Leon Britton should ring in the changes for the Boxing day fixture. Leroy Fer and Ki Sung-Yeung are both doubts for the game. Swansea are known for their beautiful and eye-pleasing style of football, but may have to sacrifice it to an extent to get the result on Tuesday.
Jordan Ayew should have earned himself a start after scoring the first goal of the post-Paul Clement era at Swansea. Leon Britton should also be hoping Wayne Routledge is fit in time to feature after being sidelined for a lengthy time.
Renato Sanches could return to the lineup, if the caretaker manager opts to rotate the midfield. Roque Mesa and Tom Carroll though, were the players that kept Swansea ticking in midfield, which means Sam Clucas will be the one to potentially make way for the on loan Bayern Munich star.
Leon Britton can take the field as well but is likely to keep doing the work on the sidelines as being on the pitch will add an extra level of difficulty to manage the team.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Fabianski; Rangel, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Sanches, Mesa, Carroll; Dyer, Abraham, Ayew
1. Swansea Asian Handicap +2.5 @ 1.700
2. Sadio Mane to score anytime @ 1.72
3. Liverpool Clean Sheet – NO @ 2.10
1. James Milner to score anytime @ 13.00
1. Liverpool are unbeaten at home on Boxing day since their 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in 1986. (W7 D3)
2. Swansea have scored just 11 goals in 19 games so far – the least in the Premier League. They meet a team that have scored almost four times as much (41).
3. Swansea have miraculously been competitive against Liverpool recently, winning 2 of their last 3 meetings, including this fixture at Anfield last season by a solitary goal.
4. Mohamed Salah is the first player since Luis Suarez to score 20 goals for Liverpool in a single season. And it’s just the halfway mark.
5. Despite various question marks on their defence, Liverpool have kept 2 clean sheets in their last 3 Premier League matches.
Player to Watch
This could be the fixture that defines Swansea’s transfer business come January. They are in need of reinforcements to increase the number of goals. But, Abraham could put himself in the picture as a player worthy of leading the line in the eyes of Leon Britton, with a performance to admire on Tuesday.
Liverpool 2-2 Swansea
Liverpool have been seen to be prone to defensive errors, that shined through against Arsenal again. Swansea are desperate for points and as often is the case, the teams at the bottom give the ones towards the happier end of the table a fight for their money.
Add to it, Liverpool’s usual troubles against sides lower than them on the table and this could very well culminate into a point or three for Swansea. Expect the visitors to score, at the very least.