Back in mid October, Jurgen Klopp was swift to criticise the Premier League’s fixture regime towards the backend of the festive period & going into the new year.
In his press match conference leading up to Red Monday’s clash with Manchester United, where he addressed the media, he said:
Now I have seen the fixtures I am not too happy. We have less than 48 hours between our game against Man City on December 31 and in Sunderland on the 2nd. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe. I learn more and more about this league and maybe I have to ask someone if we can ask if there will be another time for us at Sunderland.
Liverpool’s gruelling schedule included a home fixture against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Anfield, on New Year’s Eve [17:30GMT] Less than 46 hours later, they will travel to the Stadium of Light to face a struggling Sunderland side at 15:00GMT. Whilst Klopp hinted that he respects English traditions, he also reiterated his disappointment at playing on the Monday
I understand tradition – I would never say Boxing Day is not a good idea as I love it and I have absolutely no problem. But now having a match day with two days between, there should be another possibility. I don’t know why we play Monday. Is January 2 a special day in England?
Almost two months away, that proposition arranged by the Premier League is not far away. The Reds are on the back of playing Bournemouth (A), West Ham United (H) & Middlesbrough (A), before they face Everton at Goodison Park on Monday night.
Analysing our fixture list ahead, it takes me back to the start of the season when we had difficult away fixtures – we faced the likes of Arsenal, Spurs & Chelsea then. Here’s a look at our fixture list this time around
What I’m going to do is break each one down, and see what can be achieved realistically – on the basis of injuries, squad strength & opposition itself.
Liverpool v Stoke
This is a game which I can see us winning, with Stoke not doing so well away, especially against the teams in the top 4. However, we must be wary of a former man, in particular, Joe Allen – who has been Stoke’s top scorer this season. They also have a lot of creative men going forward, such as Shaqiri, and it’s important we stay focused to the task.
Stoke’s complacency cost them against Leicester last week, and they will be more up to it this time around. That said, I think we have more than enough to beat them, especially with home advantage. The start of a difficult schedule.
Liverpool v City
City’s away games have mostly come against teams lower down the table, but this isn’t a good time to face Guardiola’s team. On the back of a 2-1 home win against Arsenal, they’ll certainly fancy their chances here. It’ll be intriguing to see different styles come through – but maybe Liverpool’s superior form & consistency will be enough – with City often unravelling against Spurs earlier in the season away.
Verdict: Scrape a win, but wouldn’t be surprised with a draw.
Sunderland v Liverpool
Sunderland will have a real go here as they’re lower down the table, but our gulf in class will be enough.
Southampton v Liverpool
This is the perfect opportunity to bag the first of many [hopefully] silverware of the season. Southampton, having already frustrated us with a draw earlier this season, will be out to foil us again – it’s a matter of being able to take our chances this time around. I reckon we’ll win the tie at Anfield, but maybe draw away at St Mary’s; enough to progress to the EFL Cup final, likely against bitter arch rivals Manchester United.
That, however, is a story for another time…
Verdict: Win one leg, draw the other, but go through
Man United v Liverpool
I expect this to be a really tight game. If this game was 2 months ago, I’d be comfortably tipping Liverpool to win – but on the basis that it is at Old Trafford [Old Toilet, yes] & United’s form has been improving of late, I expect us to get a good point here.
United have been getting results of late, the summer signings we ridiculed a few months ago are beginning to justify their price tags – albeit a bit premature to make prophecies this early on in the season. I could be really pessimistic and go for a United win given their good home form, but with physical defenders such as Matip not travelling to the African Cup Of Nations, that could really help us. Also, it’s expected that our keyman Coutinho could be fit for the fixture on January 15.
That’s why I’m going for a draw.
Liverpool v Swansea
Comfortable Liverpool win here – Swansea’s form away from home really is, atrocious [their only away win came on the opening day at Burnley] coupled with the fact that they have the leakiest defence in the Premier League. With Liverpool’s integral stars [expection, Mane] likely to be available for selection, it’s really going to be damage limitation for them. Bob Bradley may require a mammoth effort from his players to keep our attack at bay.
Verdict: Comfortable win
Liverpool v Chelsea
This is another game poised to be a really entertaining game for the neutral. 2nd & 1st in the league so far this season – Chelsea being the early pacesetters, bedding in well with Conte’s functional 3-4-3 formation that has yielded results. It’s really made the critics who wrote off Chelsea earlier in the season following successive defeats to LFC & Arsenal respectively, look like fools – which is an understatement. Other teams will be hoping for injuries that could potentially cripple their system.
We lie 6 points behind the Blues – following dropped points against the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth & West Ham. That said, the Reds are still utilising rated & stand-in players in such positions; even with the absence of Philippe Coutinho, highlighting the squad depth under Jurgen Klopp. However, with Coutinho expected to return by the time we face them on January 31, Chelsea’s defence will have even more to think about.
It’s a question of how long each side can maintain their good form – Chelsea have gone on an 11-match winning streak, equalling the class of 2013-2014 that finished 2nd, but Conte’s side have appeared to have been scoring less of late, so will the time for them to drop points finally come?
Finally, for Liverpool – can they assert themselves in their droving midfield engines & maturity in the same way they did at Stamford Bridge in September? If they could, no doubt it’d be one of the best results of the season. But I reckon it’s too close to call. Draw.
So, that’s all for my predictions. Doing the maths, I predict we’ll pick up 14 points out of a possible 18 – which wouldn’t be too bad in my opinion considering the fixture list.
What are your predictions?
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