Liverpool v Hull City: Key Battles
Liverpool have won three games in three after the first international break of the season, and the last league victory at Stamford Bridge would have been a huge boost to everyone at the club.
On Saturday, the Reds welcome Hull City to Anfield for the second home game of the season. The Tigers have got only one point from their last three games, after two stunning wins to start their season, in what has been a period marred by off-field trouble at the club, with their ownership situation.
For Liverpool, it is just about keeping the momentum going. This is just the kind of fixture that has been our Achilles Heel for a while now. We seem to turn up for the big occasions, but we’re at a stage where this kind of game is as big as playing a Manchester United or a Chelsea.
Here are some battles that could be critical.
Roberto Firmino v Curtis Davies
Firmino returned to the side in the 3-0 win over Derby County in the League Cup, and had a very good game, linking up sumptuously with Philippe Coutinho. With Daniel Sturridge not having trained until Wednesday, it seems likely that Firmino will lead the line. Firmino opened his Anfield account for the season with two goals in the 4-1 thrashing of Leicester. For Hull, Davies has been Captain Fantastic. Winning headers, making clearances, interceptions, tackles, he has been everywhere. If Hull are to harbour hopes of getting anything from the game, Davies will have to be on his game, because Firmino will be ready to pounce on any mistake.
Sadio Mane v Andy Robertson
After an electric start to his season, Mane was rather quiet at Stamford Bridge. He played a lot further infield, maybe as part of the larger plan. But with Hull likely to sit deep and absorb pressure, Mane’s bursts of pace and his imagination could be critical for Liverpool to unlock the Tigers’ defence. Robertson was a reported Liverpool transfer target in the summer, and will be the man directly confronted by Mane. The Scot has looked solid for Hull in their five league games this season, and like Davies and the rest of his team-mates, he cannot afford any lapses in concentration, given that Liverpool will be on them like a bunch of flies, waiting to pounce on any opportunities.
James Milner v Robert Snodgrass
For a large part of last season, there was Anfield Index banter calling Milner the “false footballer”. He trashed that in the latter part of the season, and in the new term, he has been crucial to Jurgen Klopp’s plans. Alberto Moreno’s misgivings mean that Milner is now the German’s preferred option at left-back and the no. 7 has repaid the faith the manager has put in him. He has stayed focused defensively, and has always provided an outlet for the Reds, going forward. Snodgrass is Hull’s top scorer, and has a sweet left foot. Milner has to be wary of giving the Scot too much space when he cuts in on his left foot from the right flank.
Jordan Henderson v Sam Clucas
The Reds’ captain is slowly but surely winning the doubters back. The energy is back and the tactical awareness is growing with every game. One thing still questionable about Henderson is his ability to keep possession when put under pressure. That is something that Clucas is well capable of doing. For Hull fans, Clucas has become ‘undroppable’, which is a testament to the level of performances he has put in this season. For Henderson, like it is with the whole club, it is very simple. The performances of the last fortnight need to be repeated and the momentum must be maintained.