Liverpool will be aiming to reclaim pole position in the Premier League standings, when they face off against relegation battlers Cardiff City on Sunday.
Liverpool will travel to Wales this weekend as they gear up to take on relegation-threatened Cardiff City, with an eye on moving back to the top of the Premier League table.
Liverpool go into the weekend’s encounter on the back of an excellent run of form. The Reds are unbeaten since their FA Cup loss to Wolves back in January and have won all eight of their previous fixtures in all competitions. Last week, the Merseysiders defeated Chelsea 2-0 and followed it up with a 4-1 triumph over Porto in the Champions League quarter-final.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds came into the week as the league leaders, but have slipped down to the second spot, after reigning champions Manchester City beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on Saturday. That has left Liverpool a point below Pep Guardiola’s men and they will be looking to reclaim the top spot and open up a two-point lead with a win.
Cardiff City, on the other hand, find themselves at the other end of the spectrum, battling for survival in the Premier League. The Bluebirds are stationed in the 18th spot in the table, with 31 points from 34 matches, three points below 17th placed Brighton & Hove Albion. Having beaten the Seagulls 2-0 in a key encounter last weekend, they will be high on confidence.
However, Neil Warnock’s men will be aware of how difficult of a task it will be to stop the Liverpool juggernaut. The last time they played the Reds, Cardiff were thrashed 4-1. Their record against the top six doesn’t make for a good reading either as they have lost all of their 10 matches against them.
Team News & Tactics
Cardiff have a number of injuries to contend with heading into the game as key men Callum Paterson (ankle) and Sol Bamba (ACL) have both been ruled out of the rest of the season. On-loan midfielder Harry Arter (calf) is also unavailable for the match, as is Matthew Connolly (ankle). Aron Gunnarsson came off with a back spasm against Brighton, but should be fit for the Liverpool game.
Warnock will set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against the title challengers, with Neil Etheridge manning the goal. Bamba’s injury has forced Bruno Ecuele Manga to play as a centre-half alongside Sean Morrison, allowing Lee Peltier to feature at right-back. Joe Bennett is a guaranteed starter on the left-side of the defence.
Joe Ralls and Gunnarsson will form the two-man midfield pivot for the hosts and look to disrupt Liverpool’s rhythm and keep a lid on the Reds’ midfield runners. Victor Camarasa will slot in as the No.10 for Cardiff and will pose a threat with his set-piece prowess.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who scored against Brighton, and Junior Hoilett will be tasked with providing the width in the final third from the right and left flanks respectively. Spearheading the attack for the Bluebirds will be former Everton man Oumar Niasse, with Kenneth Zohore and Bobby Reid providing options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Etheridge; Peltier, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Bennett; Gunnarsson, Ralls; Mendez-Laing, Camarasa, Hoilett; Niasse
Dejan Lovren is back in contention after missing the trip to Porto due to illness. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is nearing a full return, but is likely to be eased back into action by Klopp. No other injury concerns for Liverpool to contend with, while there are no suspended players as well.
Brazilian international Alisson Becker is the undisputed starter between the sticks for Liverpool, but there could be changes in the backline for Sunday’s game. The fit-again Joe Gomez could be in line for a start at right-back, with Lovren also coming in for Joel Matip as Virgil van Dijk’s partner at the heart of the defence. Andrew Robertson should continue at left-back for the Reds.
The midfield too could see a few tweaks with captain Jordan Henderson returning to the side after not starting against Porto in the midweek. However, the Englishman is likely to slot in as the No.6, with Fabinho getting some much-deserved rest. Gini Wijnaldum should hold on to his place, while the third slot in midfield should see Naby Keita replace James Milner.
Divock Origi was handed a rare start in attack during the week, but should make way for Roberto Firmino in Wales. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are guaranteed starters in the wide areas.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Gomez, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.53
- Cardiff Asian Handicap + 2.0 @ 1.890
- Over 4.5 Match Goals @ 4.00
- Cardiff City have lost their three Premier League meetings with Liverpool, conceding 13 goals. They have never lost more top-flight matches in a row versus the Reds.
- Liverpool have won each of their last nine Premier League matches against newly promoted sides, scoring 27 goals and conceding just three. The Reds have never won 10 successive such matches in the competition.
- Cardiff have picked up just two points from their 22 Premier League games against the six ever-present sides in the competition (W0 D2 L20), losing their last 18 in a row against Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs.
- Liverpool have won their last five Premier League games, with the winning goal each time coming after half-time.
- Mohamed Salah has scored 19 league goals this season, and could become just the third Liverpool player to score 20 in consecutive Premier League campaigns (Robbie Fowler 1994-95 and 1995-96, Luis Suarez 2012-13 and 2013-14).
Player to Watch
The Senegalese speedster has been the star of the show for Liverpool this season, constantly putting his hand up and stepping up whenever his team has needed him. Mane, so far this term, has netted 22 goals and set up 5 more from 43 matches in all competitions and was on the scoresheet in the midweek win over Porto.
Mane has scored 10 goals in his last 12 Premier League games for Liverpool – coming into this round of matches, no player has scored more Premier League goals in 2019 than the Senegalese forward (10, same as Sergio Aguero). Having bagged a double in the last meeting against Cardiff, the 27-year-old will once again be the player to watch out for when Liverpool take the field on Sunday.
Cardiff City 0-3 Liverpool
Staring at the possibility of going back down to the Championship, Cardiff City will come at Liverpool with everything they have got on Sunday. Every point is important for Neil Warnock’s men at this stage and they are unlikely to go down without putting up a fight against the Reds.
However, Jurgen Klopp’s side are exuding such confidence at the moment and are hitting the top gear at the right time, as the race for the Premier League title heats up. With eight wins in a row across all competitions and no defeats in over three months, it would be foolish to bet against Liverpool against the relegation battlers.
Cardiff come into the game on the back of an important win, but if their record against the top six clubs this term is anything to go by, they should fall short against Liverpool on Sunday. We at The Hard Tackle are predicting a comfortable win for the Reds, which should send them back to the summit of the league table.