Saturday night will see two historical English sides collide, in what is certain to be an entertaining evening of football. I’ve just had a look at the TV listings (I don’t really watch TV), and if you’re looking to avoid the horrid choice of The Voice or Strictly Come Dancing, then a night under the Anfield lights might just be for you.
Both sides are currently way underperforming their pre-campaign expectations, with the reds sitting in 8th, as the Whites (nearly called them the lily-whites there) languish in 18th. It’s early in the season, but the final crop of games before the winter break could be critical to a contented end, and both will be desperate to pick up as many points as is achievable.
Leeds have lost their last four league games, with Fulham, Arsenal, Leicester & Palace, all walking away from their respective games with maximum points. Leeds are in free fall, and in manager Jesse Marsch, we could be seeing the final days of his tenure. With Bournemouth, Wolves (Milk Cup) and Tottenham coming after this game, it really is tough to see the Yorkshire outfit picking up too many points before the World Cup. Liverpool have succumbed to teams that are willing to outfight them this year, and that’ll be Leeds ambition this Saturday evening.
On the injury front, Stuart Dallas & Adam Forshaw remain sidelined with injuries. On a positive note, Leeds should be able to call upon the returning Archie Gray, Leo Fuhr Hjelde, Tyler Adams, Rodrigo Moreno Machado, Luis Fernando Sinisterra, Liam Cooper (sore bum) and Joe Gelhardt.
In terms of a starting line up, Illan Meslier will start in goal, with a probable back four of Luke Ayling, Robin Kock, Liam Cooper (returned from sore bum) and Pascal Struijk. Up top should see a return to the starting line up of Patrick Bamford, and Tyler Adams will be hoping for a start. Based upon their opponents, Leeds will probably look to flood the midfield and hope to outwork the reds. And based upon recent results, the starting midfield spots are very much up for grabs.
I’m terms of Liverpools available players, the list has been tough reading all season long. Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Joel Matip, Naby Keita and Arthur Melo are all still out for varying lengths of time, however Naby is back in team training. Jordan Henderson caught an impact knee injury against Ajax in the week, but is expected to be fit to travel. Thiago Alcantara has missed the passed two games with an ear infection, but should now be fit to start this game.
The reds form is very unpredictable right now, with solid performances often followed by some degree of shambles. The win In Amsterdam in the week (0-3) was not without its concerns, but they at least showed some character after the opening goal. Last weekend saw Jurgen Klopp’s men fall to a horrid defeat away to Nottingham Forest (1-0), and the fanbase will be praying that that’s ground zero for their slump.
The reds line up will see Alisson Becker remain in goal, with Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson probably returning at full back. Virgil Van Djik is a certain starter, with perhaps Ibrahima Konate coming in for Joe Gomez. The midfield will comprise Thiago Alcantara (if fit) and Fabinho in a double pivot, with Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah up top. Roberto Firmino will surely sit this one out, with an array of games being played thus far. The wide positions are the point of most intrigue. If the midweek diamond is preferred, then perhaps Curtis Jones takes up a ‘corridor’ midfield slot, with Fabio Carvalho in the 10. Equally so, each could operate as wide midfielders in a flat four man midfield. The hope is that Harvey will remain in the team to offer good balance, but Klopp is prone to rotation of this particular teenager.
I expect a period where Liverpool will fight for every point available. I also expect Darwin and Mohamed Salah to penetrate the middle areas, and I fully expect the reds to overcome their visitors on Saturday evening. We saw flashes of Mo’s ability to drop in and create, and hopefully we are starting to see the evolution of a more central Egyptian King.
Player to watch – Mohamed Salah
Liverpool 3 – 0 Leeds