Liverpool v Swansea
Liverpool hope to give their home fans some festive entertainment on Monday night when they play hosts to Swansea City at Anfield , with both sides hoping to build on narrow Boxing Day victories.
In a dour game at Turf Moor, the one piece of real quality earned Liverpool their 1-0 win, when an astute over-the-shoulder from Phillipe Coutinho set Raheem Sterling through to round the keeper and produce a tidy finish. That win was a welcome smash-and-grab for Brendan Rodgers and his players, providing the first league win since their back-to-back wins over Stoke and Leicester at the beginning of December. Since the disappointing European showdown with Basel, Liverpool seem to have relaxed a little, their 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford belying an enterprising performance that was only thwarted by David De Gea’s heroics in the United goal, while they were excellent value for their 2-2 draw at home to Arsenal in a game they probably deserved to win. Raheem Sterling is reveling in his central attacking role, and could forge a formidable partnership with Daniel Sturridge when the latter returns from injury, and should Rodgers be brave enough to play them both up front together. A major concern for Rodgers must be the man between the sticks, as Simon Mignolet replaced the injured Brad Jones at Burnley and clear lack of confidence made him look every inch like a man who knew he had deserved to be dropped in the first place.
Swansea will be hoping to exploit Liverpool’s defensive frailties, and to make the most of Wilfried Bony’s presence before he departs to the African Nations Cup in the new year. Their two 1-0 wins at Hull last weekend and ot home to Aston Villa in the pouring rain on Boxing Day was the first time they have won back-to-back league games since they opened the season with three straight wins back in August. Despite patchy recent form they remain only four points behind Southampton in fourth place, and Garry Monk will know that in such a tightly-packed group of teams, his squad has as much chance as any of grabbing that coveted Champions League qualifying spot. He was boosted on Friday by the return of Gyfil Sigurdsson from suspension, and also the return of the Icelandic star’s scoring boots as he got the crucial goal from an excellently-struck free kick.
This could well be an entertaining festive encounter, and the Anfield fans just might get the refreshing treat of seeing their heroes pushing forward and back to their attacking best. I anticipate a fast-paced game with the Reds pressing forward in a high-tempo performance and if they get an early goal, it could be a long evening for the Swans’ defenders.