Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Relegation battlers Cardiff City are set to welcome title challenger Liverpool to the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday and considering the importance of claiming three points for both sides, the clash looks set to be a fascinating one.
Cardiff City were desperately unlucky to return empty handed from their clash against Everton last week after putting up a valiant display. Despite the loss though, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have taken heart from his team’s performance and the Norwegian manager will be hoping to replicate a similar display against the mighty Liverpool this weekend.
However, at this stage of the season, points are more valuable than good performances for Cardiff and another loss could see the Bluebirds cut adrift from the rest at the bottom of the Premier League table.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have been simply sensational and proved that they are genuine title contenders by humiliating Manchester United at Old Trafford last week. On a high at the moment, the Reds will certainly be looking for another victory against Cardiff to maintain their title onslaught.
However, with the Bluebirds scrapping for their lives at the bottom the Premier League, Solskjaer’s men could well put up more of a fight against Liverpool than United did last week and the Reds cannot expect another walk in the park.
Captain Mark Hudson and defender Andrew Taylor look set to miss the clash due to injuries but Ben Turner may make a return to the lineup after sitting out the clash against Everton after suffering from a slight knock.
Solskjaer has been deploying a 5-4-1 formation recently and given Liverpool’s attacking prowess, the Norwegian manager could well stick to five at the back which will most likely consist of Fabio, Steven Caulker, Ben Turner, Juan Cala and Declan John with Kévin Théophile-Catherine dropping to the bench.
In midfield, Solskjaer does posses a lot of options. Peter Whittingham and Wilfried Zaha were impressive in their cameo off the bench against Everton and could be handed starts in place of Jordan Mutch and Craig Noone.
Gary Medel and Kim Bo-Kyung look set to continue in central midfield while the likes of Mats Møller Dæhli and Aaron Gunnerson will also be pushing for a start.
Frazier Campbell and Kenwyne Jones will be fighting out win a starting place to lead to line for the Bluebirds while David Marshall, who was unlucky to find himself on the losing side last week after a sensational performance, will start in goal.
Brendan Rodgers was handed a huge boost with the return of Mamdou Sakho and Lucas to full fitness just in time for the title run-in. However, the two look unlikely to be handed a start on Saturday following the Reds’ imperious performance against United.
Simon Mignolet will start in goal and the Belgian will be shielded by the solid back four consisting of Jon Flanagan, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson. Rodgers’ gamble of going with Joe Allen instead of Philippe Coutinho certainly paid off against United and the Welshman should continue in the Liverpool midfield alongside the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling.
Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez will inevitably be leading the line for the Reds and duo will certainly be looking to exploit Cardiff’s fragile defence.
Cardiff City (Probable XI): Marshall; Fabio, Turner, Caulker, Cala, John; Zaha, Medel, Kim, Whittingham; Campbell
Liverpool (Probable XI): Mignolet; Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Sturridge, Henderson, Gerrard, Allen, Sterling; Suarez
Cardiff City: L L L W L
Liverpool: W L W W W
21/12/2013 Liverpool 3 – 1 Cardiff City
Liverpool certainly head into the clash as favourites, given their great run of form allied by Cardiff City’s miserable fortunes recently. However, the Reds cannot afford to be complacent against a Bluebirds side who are willing to fight tooth and nail in order to preserve their Premier League status.
The Cardiff City defence has been very shaky this season and the likes of Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling will certainly be looking to pounce at every opportunity. Steven Gerrard will undoubtedly be looking to run the show once again and it will be of paramount importance for the Cardiff midfielders to stop the Liverpool captain from taking a foothold of the game in order to stand a chance.
For Cardiff, set-pieces look the most likely source of goals given their prowess in the air and Liverpool’s frailties at defending dead ball situations, while the pace of Zaha and Campbell could also cause problems for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
The three points on offer will be equally important for both sides for very different reason, which means that the clash will certainly be fiercely contested. However, Liverpool posses more quality than Cardiff and should be able to see off the challenge posed by the Bluebirds.
Cardiff City 1 – 3 Liverpool
TV Info: NBC Sports Network (USA), LFC T VOnline.