Premier League | Anfield | Wed 1 Jan | 3pm
Liverpool’s chance to make amends on home soil. Round two… *ding ding*
When Brendan Rodgers took his men to the KC at the beginning of December, the Reds weren’t expecting to shuffle away with their tails between legs.
- Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Man City 2-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Spurs 0-5 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Hull 6-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Hull 2-3 Man Utd (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 0-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Hull (Prem)
But thanks to a convincing display from the hosts, Liverpool were doing just that after their 3-1 humbling. Perhaps Hull should take some credit for the Merseysiders’ resulting form – after that defeat, Rodgers’ men went on to inflict heavy demolitions of Norwich (5-1), West Ham (4-1) and Tottenham (5-0).
But the Reds’ title charge has since been derailed. Back-to-back defeats at Manchester City and Chelsea have nudged them down to fifth, six points behind New Year leaders Arsenal. Slip-ups don’t go unpunished this season.
Injuries to Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge haven’t helped, but with a relatively kind stretch of fixtures ahead and both due to return soon, Rodgers will be confident his side can return to winning ways.
But first they’ll have to see off plucky Hull at the second attempt. That won’t be plain sailing, as has already been proved, but it's been made worse after the Tigers enjoyed their biggest win of the season with Saturday’s 6-0 drubbing of Fulham.
Steve Bruce’s men aren’t exactly celebrated for their goals, even at Fortress KC – indeed, they've scored as many goals in their past two Premier League games as they had in the previous 10 – but the annihilation that took them into the top half and ended a five-game winless run was worth the wait.
Still, Bruce would like his side to patch up their dreadful away form. Defeat at Anfield would take them level with Stoke as the league’s worst travellers, having won only one and lost six of their nine road trips so far. Is it a bad time to mention that Liverpool have won eight of nine at Anfield this season?
Gerrard (hamstring) isn’t expected to return until mid-January, but this could be the last game that Sturridge (ankle) sits out. Mamadou Sakho could be crocked for up to two months with a hamstring problem according to reports, while Jose Enrique (knee) and Jon Flanagan (hamstring) are sidelined again. Joe Allen (groin) and Jordan Henderson (muscle) are set for late fitness tests
Hull are still without Sone Aluko (calf) and Robbie Brady (groin), but Stephen Quinn (hamstring) looks to be nearing a return to contention.
Player to watch: Tom Huddlestone (Hull)
But forget the weekend performance his manager hailed as a “masterclass” for a minute – the world is waiting to see the former Tottenham man’s new barnet, after he netted his first Premier League goal since April 2011.
“Fortunately enough for my barber I managed to nick a goal,” said Huddlestone. “It's a chance to try different hairstyles again.” Jolly good.
Now back to the 27-year-old’s dazzling display against Fulham. He notched almost a quarter of Hull’s efforts at the KC Stadium (5), all of which came from outside the box. Only right-back Liam Rosenior had more touches. He created more chances than any other player (3), made the most ball recoveries (9), completed the most take-ons (2) and interceptions (7).
It’s no wonder Bruce wants him on the plane for England’s World Cup campaign. “It has been a pleasure to work with him over the last three or four months and I don’t think I have seen an individual performance from him as good as that,” parped the delighted Geordie.
Now all he has to do is keep the ship steady at Anfield. No biggie, right?
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Hull 3-1 L'pool (Prem, Dec 13)
- Hull 0-0 L'pool (Prem, May 10)
- L'pool 6-1 Hull (Prem, Sep 09)
- Hull 1-3 L'pool (Prem, Apr 09)
- L'pool 2-2 Hull (Prem, Dec 08)
Before this season the duo’s only previous meeting was a dour goalless draw between Rodgers’ Swansea and Bruce’s Sunderland in August 2011, three months before the latter was shown the Stadium of Light exit.
And, as Rodgers looks for a first win over his opposite number, the Northern Irishman believes Liverpool’s home form could decide the fate of this season’s title. “I think it's [the title race] open,” he declared. “Anfield's a tough place to come, and we have to play all of them [the big teams] at home.”
Hull boss Bruce, on the other hand, was revelling in his side’s wonder weekend. “This was one of the great days we will remember for a long, long time,” he sobbed. “In my experience, it doesn't happen very often.”
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Liverpool have won 7 and lost 0 of 8 previous home games against the Tigers in all competitions, scoring at least twice on every occasion.
- Hull's victory over Liverpool in December was their first victory over the Reds in any competition, ever (D4 L12).
- Liverpool have had win/win results in their last 8 home wins.
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Lots of huff and puff from Hull, but Liverpool have the firepower to blow the house down. 2-0.