The FourFourTwo Preview: Swansea vs Liverpool
Liverpool’s first real test of the season (United under Moyes don’t count).
Three games, three cleans sheets and three goals adds up to nine points for Liverpool. What a difference a year makes. Last season it took the Reds eight games to amass the same number of points, and they conceded 12 goals.
- West Brom 0-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Ploiesti 2-1 Swansea (EL)
- Tottenham 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-0 Man United (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-2 Notts County (LC)
- Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool (Prem)
But then this time last year they didn’t have Simon Mignolet in goal or Kolo Toure in defence – two of the sides’ star performers at the back so far. While Toure missed the victory over United, Martin Skrtel returned in the Ivorian's place with a man-of-the-match performance.
At the other end, Brendan Rogers will be hoping Daniel Sturridge is fit to play after the 24-year-old missed both England games against Moldova and Ukraine with a thigh injury. The former Chelsea striker has scored 13 league goals in 17 games since joining from the Blues in January. Apart from that obvious firepower, Rodgers doesn’t have a natural replacement for Sturridge, with Luis Suarez still banned and Iago Aspas deemed too lightweight to lead the line on his own.
There was reason to celebrate for Rodgers and Sturridge on Friday though, as they were named the Premier League's manager and player of the month respectively.
But Swansea won’t be fearing the visit of the league leaders after an impressive 2-0 victory at West Brom before the international break. Michael Laudrup described it as the perfect performance.
Despite sitting 16th in the league, early-season signs have been encouraging for the Swans. Their opening-day defeat to Manchester United could have been different had they taken one of their many early chances, while their loss to Tottenham was by the narrowest of margins. With a little more luck they could have nabbed something from both fixtures. They’ll be hoping to reverse those fortunes on Monday.
Liverpool are hoping Sturridge returns from the thigh injury that kept him from playing for England. Toure is hopeful of a return too, although Glen Johnson is still out with an ankle injury.
For Swansea, Nathan Dyer remains sidelined with a hamstring injury picked up against Manchester United. Their only other concern is left-back Neil Taylor, who is expected to return in early October.
Key battle: Michu vs Lucas
It’s a match-up of two classy players who operate in the same part of the pitch; one creating, the other destroying. Michu’s best work is done centrally just outside the opposition penalty area, as he demonstrated against West Brom. His intelligent passing and probing runs led to one assist for Pablo Hernandez - and it could have been more if Wayne Routledge had taken his chance after being slipped through by the Spaniard.
Rodgers will be hoping Lucas can nullify the threat, though. The Brazilian has done a pretty good job of protecting the defence so far this season, particularly against Manchester United when he won possession 3 times, recovered the ball 7 times and made 4 interceptions in Liverpool’s half.
Lucas has attempted the second-most tackles in the league so far this season (21) with an impressive 85.7% success rate. He’s the first player in the Liverpool squad to reach double figures for clearances and interceptions, and will be key if Liverpool are to continue their flying start to the season.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Liverpool 5-0 Swansea (Prem, Feb 13)
- Swansea 0-0 Liverpool (Prem, Nov 12)
- Liverpool 1-3 Swansea (LC, Oct 12)
- Swansea 1-0 Liverpool (Prem, May 12)
- Liverpool 0-0 Swansea (Prem, Nov 11)
It’s all pretty even between both managers, with a win each plus a draw in their three meetings last season. However, the last game between the sides – a 5-0 win for Liverpool at Anfield – was particularly painful for Laudrup, who admitted the Swans could have lost by 10 after the game.
The Dane might be quick to point out that the game took place a week before their League Cup final against Bradford, resting a number of first team players. While the relationship between the current and former Swansea boss seems to be amicable enough, Laudrup will be keen to set the record straight after that drubbing. Rodgers meanwhile, who got a mixed reception on his return to the Liberty Stadium last year, will be hoping for better than last year’s 0-0 draw at his former stomping ground.
Facts and figures
- Swansea City have won none and lost four of their last six Premier League home games.
- Liverpool have won their first three games of a top-flight season while keeping a clean sheet in each game, for the first time in their history.
- Liverpool are one victory away from sealing their 400th win in the Premier League.
- The Anfield club have never started a Premier League season with four consecutive wins.
- Brendan Rodgers avoided defeat in both matches against his previous club last season (W1 D1); including a thumping 5-0 win at Anfield.
- Daniel Sturridge has scored 11 goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions for Liverpool.
- Sturridge is only the second Liverpool player to score in each of the opening three games of a Premier League season (after Robbie Fowler in 1994/95).
- Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in six of their last seven league fixtures and are currently on a five-match winning run.
- Only Yaya Toure (267) has attempted more passes so far this season than Swansea’s summer signing Jose Canas (235).
- Chico has made a joint-division-high 33 clearances so far this season in the Premier League.
With both teams playing well, it’s going to be tight. 1-1.