Next Monday sees a matchup between two teams fighting very different battles. Both clubs are legendary institutions of English football, therefore this should be an interesting battle between two sides struggling for consistency. Elland Road will be the venue for a match up that has produced some brilliant moments over the years, with this game perhaps able to produce a little more.
Leeds United are in serious peril right now, as they sit an uncomfortable 16th in the Premier League table. With the three relegation spots residing just two points below their own 29-point total, it is going to make for an almighty end of season scrap. From 12th – 20th, there must be three teams relegated from the nine sides currently in the mix. With Southampton perhaps already adrift (in 20th place), that then needs two more clubs from the other eight involved. If ever Javi Gracia was hoping to achieve some degree of form, now would be the ideal moment for his players to react.
For their 31st game of the season, the home side will be without Maximillian Wober, Stuart Dallas, and Tyler Adams. In terms of form, a 2-4 away win (against Wolves) was followed by an expected 4-1 defeat against Arsenal, before recording a 2-1 home win against fellow strugglers, Nottingham Forest. They also lost 5-1 at home to Crystal Palace last Sunday.
The starting line-up will see Illan Meslier start in goal, with a back four consisting of Luke Ayling and Junior Firpo at fullback, whilst Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk hold down their central defensive roles. A midfield double pivot of Weston McKennie and Marc Roca will offer coverage for the line of three, that will operate behind their lone striker, Patrick Bamford. That line of three should see Jack Harrison, Brenden Aaronson, and Luis Sinisterra retained, given their good performances last weekend.
Liverpool come into this game on the back of their brilliant final 60 minutes against Arsenal, which was preceded by 210 minutes of very disappointing play against the Gunners, Chelsea, and Manchester City. Their 2-2 draw at home to the table toppers came after a 0-0 bore draw at Stamford Bridge, which followed their heavy defeat (4-1) at the Etihad. The Reds currently languish in 8th position in the Premier League, with a hugely disheartening 44 points taken from their 29 games played.
In terms of Anfield injuries, Calvin Ramsay, and Stefan Bajčetić are definitely out, whereas Luis Díaz is now ready for a return. Naby Keïta is no longer be in contention for first team football, given his injuries and shortening contract. With six days in between this game and their home match up against Forest, it means Jürgen Klopp will surely have to select players on form, with just the one competition on their list of remaining fixtures.
Alisson Becker will resume his position in goal, with the pair of Virgil and Ibrahima Konaté starting ahead of him. Virgil had a horror showing in the opening stages against Arsenal, but should start ahead of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold will keep their places at fullback, with our number 66 given on ball licence to push into a more central midfield role. Fabinho and Thiago should start this game, with Curtis Jones or the skipper, Jordan Henderson, starting alongside them. The attack must see Mohamed Salah retained, with Darwin Núñez hopefully set for a recall. The Uruguayan has spent much of his time on the left of the attack; therefore, the return of Diaz may see him take up his preferred central position. Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo, and Luis Diaz will be hoping for starts, with Roberto Firmino also looking for more minutes. It could be that Klopp will adopt a 4-2-3-1 system, allowing him to pick four forwards. This would see a return of Fabinho and Thiago in the double pivot.
The return to the starting eleven of the Reds’ magical Spaniard, Thiago, should see more control with a mass amount of attacking threat ahead of him. The away team should have far too much fire power not to win this game, even with their defensive issues. Leeds have far too many deficiencies within their group to cause an upset, therefore I predict a comfortable away win.
Player to watch – Thiago Alcantara
Leeds 1 – 3 Liverpool