LIVERPOOL VS CARDIFF CITY: PREVIEW
Liverpool return to action after what feels like an eternity. In reality, it’s been a well earned two week winter break. The Reds take on Championship side Cardiff City in the 4th Round of the FA Cup tomorrow afternoon at Anfield. Here’s a preview of the game.
Liverpool successfully scaled the challenges of January without the services of Naby Keita, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah as the trio represented their respective countries at AFCON2021. The squad pulled together and got through a potentially sticky period.
The break came at just the right time too, and has afforded some members of the squad time to recover from their injuries. The likes of Thiago, Harvey Elliott and Origi have all returned to training and are expected to feature.
New signing Luis Diaz arrived at the AXA Training Ground for the very first time yesterday and was put through his paces in a light session. The manager has not ruled out handing the Colombian an immediate debut tomorrow.
Klopp: “I wouldn’t say no [to a debut on Sunday] because I would be excited as well. A few minutes in a sold-out Anfield is nice. But let’s see.”
There’s a real buzz of excitement around the club at the minute and you’d expect tomorrow to be a welcome return to action for the boys in red. February is a stacked month with 7 games in 22 days across three different competitions.
It is absolutely necessary for Liverpool to start the month on a good note to keep the feel-good vibes going. The Reds will want to be in tip top shape when the Champions League Round of 16 clash with Inter rolls around, not to mention the small matter of the League Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea.
It will be interesting to see how Jürgen Klopp approaches this game in terms of selection. His side usually need a run of games to get the juices flowing after a break so he could go stronger than usual to get his starters back into the rhythm of things.
With the fixtures piled up this month, he may also decide it is unnecessary to field them in a home clash against Cardiff when there are tougher challenges ahead. It will be intriguing to see how he manages his squad throughout this period. He’s certainly not lacking for depth.
Liverpool are unbeaten in 2022, winning four of the six matches they’ve played this year. They will aim to go on a long run which could even translate to them reviving their title hopes. Cardiff on the other hand, have struggled this season. The Bluebirds lie 20th in the Championship, 9 points above the relegation places.
They however come into this fixture in confident mood after two victories in the last week or so over Nottingham Forest and Barnsley. Coach Steve Morrison will be firing his boys up and instilling belief that they can pull off an almighty upset.
Liverpool have won each of the last five meetings against Cardiff City, with the first game in that run being the League Cup final in 2012- a game the Reds won on penalties. Jürgen Klopp’s side will want no repeat of that even if the outcome then, led to wild celebrations.
Extra time and penalties will follow if it ends level after ninety minutes with replays being scrapped, but with the jam-packed weeks ahead, the Reds will want to finish this in regulation time. They are overwhelming favourites and will look to avoid the kind of upset Middlesbrough caused at Old Trafford last night.
For Liverpool, Thiago has returned to training after a brief chest infection disrupted his return from a hip injury. Harvey Elliott is also available after a fracture dislocation of the ankle. Origi is also back and in contention after two months out with a knee injury.
Alisson, Fabinho and Minamino are all back from international duty, as is Naby Keita. Luis Diaz is expected to join team training after officially linking up with the squad yesterday. Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah remain absent however as they take on each other in the AFCON final on Sunday night.
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