Premier League | Anfield | Sat 21 Dec | 12:45pm
Who cares? Everyone will be last-minute Christmas shopping, slumped under a hangover blanket or at familial pre-festivity present-swapping gatherings.
The Premier League’s managerial murderers-in-chief meet at Anfield a week after Steve Clarke and Andre Villas-Boas felt the full force of what allowing sinuous whelp Peter Whittingham to score a header and Jon Flanagan, well, to score at all, can mean to your job prospects.
- Spurs 0-5 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Liverpool 5-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Hull 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Everton 3-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Cardiff 1-0 WBA (Prem)
- Palace 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Stoke 0-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Cardiff 2-2 Man Utd (Prem)
Despite that West Brom victory, Cardiff’s first since early November, Malky Mackay’s future has again come into question, amid conflicting reports over January transfer budgets.
After targeting three new signings when the market reopens next month, Mackay was unceremoniously informed by the club’s hierarchy that “not a single penny” would be available because of a perceived summer overspend that cost head of recruitment Iain Moody his job in controversial circumstances in October.
The simmering tension in the Welsh capital between manager and board is a subplot that shows no signs of dampening, early rumours even link Mackay with that Hawthorns vacancy.
Yet for all that, the Bluebirds impressed. Fresh from a fine cross for Whittingham’s winner, Craig Noone – denied facing the injured Steven Gerrard, a former client in the winger’s past life as a roofer – is a tricky customer, while with keeper David Marshall and a settled defence, they have a consistent back five. When you’re facing Luis Suarez, you need all the help (and familiarity) you can get.
For their part, Liverpool will seek simply more of the same. Since a timid 3-1 loss at Hull at the beginning of the month, the Reds have scored 14 goals in three games, you-know-who getting eight of them.
The 5-0 Spurs shellacking even yielded a first clean sheet in five games for a defence that still fails to fully convince, plus without captain Gerrard at its midfield heart. Whether the armband mellows the firebrand irritant that is Suarez remains to be seen, but in the England skipper’s midfield stead, Joe Allen, and Jordan Henderson in particular, have risen to the challenge.
Everything points to a home win, then, but nearly 60 years after the last top-flight meeting between these two teams, you wouldn’t put it past Cardiff to pull off a pre-Christmas miracle on Merseyside.
Gerrard (hamstring), Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and Jose Enrique (knee) remain medium to long-term absentees. Expect Allen and Lucas to continue in defensive midfield, with Philippe Coutinho accommodated from a left-wing starting position.
Cardiff have no fresh injury worries, and should welcome back the formerly hamstrung Craig Bellamy to the matchday squad to face his former club.
Key battle: Jordan Henderson vs Gary Medel
It’s a sign of Henderson’s consistency this season that the erstwhile much-maligned midfielder has played all bar 21 minutes of Liverpool’s 16 Premier League games. Now deployed in a more favoured central role because of Gerrard’s injury, the 23-year-old’s bustling nature is increasingly married with a great attacking threat.
Against Spurs he scored, completed 92% of passes and created 4 chances. To counter that peril, Chilean pitbull Medel must maintain the impressive start to his Cardiff career and cut off the Suarez supply.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L'pool p2-2 Cardiff (LC, Feb 12)
- L'pool 2-1 Cardiff (LC, Oct 07)
- L'pool 0-4 Cardiff (Div 2, Dec 59)
- Cardiff 3-2 L'pool (Div 2, Aug 59)
- Cardiff 3-0 L'pool (Div 2, Feb 59)
Firm friends after spending two-thirds of a season at Watford in Rodgers’ first job in management in 2008/09, the Northern Irishman and Scot will be certain to share a glass or two of claret post-game. Though operating at northern and southern ends of the table, the pair share a footballing philosophy that should lead to entertaining affair.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- The last meeting between these two sides was the 2012 League Cup final when Liverpool won on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
- These two teams have not met in the league since December 19, 1959, when Cardiff won 4-0 at Anfield.
- Liverpool have led at half-time in 7 of their 8 home matches without conceding at all before the break.
Cardiff are the only side not to have led at half-time, going into the break level in 10 of their 16 league games.
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Liverpool win. 2-0.