The FourFourTwo Preview: Liverpool vs Swansea
Unloseable if Liverpool want to stay in the race – but another good chance for Garry Monk to make his name.
Your move, Liverpool. The delay imposed by facing Europa League opponents means Brendan Rodgers' side play the day after the teams above them; as all three have winnable home games, the Reds may be seven points off the lead.
- Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (FAC)
- Fulham 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Everton (Prem)
- Swansea 0-0 Napoli (EL)
- Everton 3-1 Swansea (FAC)
- Stoke 1-1 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- West Ham 2-0 Swansea (Prem)
Luckily for them, they also have a winnable home game. Although Roberto Martinez says his former side Swansea have been "galvanised" under caretaker Monk, their problem may be the lack of steel on which to apply the rustproof zinc coating [Well done – Metallurgy Ed.].
Despite Monk's statement that Chico Flores was "a warrior" in the draw at Stoke ("man of the match by a million miles"), Swans will need all the battlers they can find during a difficult spring. Their top-half toehold is tenuous at best, considering they go into the weekend just four points above the drop zone; they are in poor form, having won just two of the last dozen league games (and only one on the road since September); and their former manager Michael Laudrup is going public about suing what has previously been seen as a well-run club.
Certainly Monk seems determined to continue the passing philosophy which also made the name of Rodgers; Anfield fans won't see many long balls in this fixture. Nor did they last year, when Liverpool snapped out of a five-match winless run to win 5-0 against a shadow Swans side (including Monk) a week before the League Cup final.
That visiting side was abject and the danger is that this one will also fail to concentrate on the league, with this trip to Anfield sandwiched by the Europa League clashes against Napoli. Liverpool, on the other hand, can be ruthlessly single-minded: the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal stung but at least unlike Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City – and Swansea – they have just one focus.
With freshness of legs, unity of purpose and as kind a fixture list as could be expected, the major question mark over Liverpool's title is their away form, threatened by a leaky defence. Beating Swansea at home won't win the title, but failing to do so might rule it out.
Hard to tell how Monk will shuffle his pack for this tough test. The side defeated at Everton showed eight changes from the team that drew at Stoke, and although he may pick more from the top of the deck in a league game, the Napoli games are bound to affect his selection choices – in terms of recuperation and preparation. There's an outside chance that Alex Pozuelo (hip), former Red Jonjo Shelvey (hamstring) and totemic forward Michu (foot) could return to the fray, but again they may not be risked.
Liverpool, on the other hand, can do what they like – although Rodgers may also err on the side of caution with Glen Johnson (ankle), given the impressive showings of young full-backs Martin Kelly and Jon Flanagan.
Player to watch: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Namechecked by Roy Hodgson, the junior member of the SASAS has a lot to gain in a World Cup year. Although sometimes criticised for wayward shooting, he excelled against Arsenal, getting all 5 of his shots on target (and scoring twice). He also completed a Suarez-matching 3 of 6 dribbles and contributed an eye-opening 10 ball recoveries all over the pitch – only Philippe Coutinho racked up more.
If he had a weak spot against Arsenal it was his passing – only 5 of his 11 attempts in the final third reached their mark, meaning he didn't create a single chance. At Fulham the following midweek he was much more accurate, completing 16 of his 19 passes up the business end and creating an unparalleled 4 chances… but didn't take any of Liverpool's 21 shots himself.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Swans 2-2 L'pool (Prem, Sep 13)
- L'pool 5-0 Swans (Prem, Feb 13)
- Swans 0-0 L'pool (Prem, Nov 12)
- L'pool 1-3 Swans (LC, Oct 12)
- Swans 1-0 L'pool (Prem, May 12)
Having joined Swansea in June 2004, Monk is steeped in Swans history. Martinez made him captain but Rodgers clearly appreciated him: "He was a wonderful captain for me - very loyal, very generous as a skipper - and I have got every confidence that, in time, Garry is going to be a very good manager." Monk, for his part, used to go round to Casa Rodgers for careers advice: "He invited me around to his house a few times to discuss life after playing. He would go out of his way to help and not just because he felt it was going to help him with managing; he genuinely cared about what was going on in your life." Expect a hug.
Facts and figures
- Liverpool have won 1 of 5 meetings with Swansea since 2011/12.
- Liverpool have had 12 W/W doubles in their last 14 home games.
- Liverpool’s last 9 wins have all been by more than 1 goal and 6 have been despite conceding.
- Swansea have conceded in 10 consecutive away matches.
- Just 1 of Swansea’s 7 wins this season has come against a team above the current bottom six.
- Swansea have lost their last 9 trips to top-half teams including 6 L/L doubles.
Stranger things than a Swansea win have happened, but not often. 4-0.