Liverpool’s hard-fought point against Chelsea on Tuesday appeared to signal the end of a dismal run, certainly in terms of performances, but a tricky game against a resurgent Hull City lies in waiting on Saturday.
Supporters could be forgiven for thinking that it would be typical of Liverpool to play so well against a top side, only to lose the next match against lowly opposition. That was certainly the feeling among some people on the way out of Anfield on Tuesday.
Hull City – fresh from earning a point at Old Trafford – pose a significant threat; a test of whether Liverpool really have turned a corner.
Liverpool have struggled to break down packed defences on many occasions, not least against Chelsea in mid-week until Gini Wijnaldum’s header equalised, but will probably welcome back Sadio Mane to the starting eleven for the first time since he departed for the Africa Cup of Nations. His speed and guile might be necessary to unlock what will probably be a deep defence once again.
If he does return, it will be the first time since the 6-1 win over Watford on November 6th that the quartet of the Senegalese alongside Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana have played together. It is no coincidence that a poor run of form aligned in the period when some or most were absent.
For Hull City, Lazar Markovic is ineligible because he is on loan from Liverpool, but Oumar Niasse, the loanee from Everton, will look to score a goal to delight Everton fans – something he did not manage to do over his short spell on the blue half of Merseyside following his £13.5 million move from Russia a year ago.
Hull have shown significant signs of improvement since Marco Silva took over a few weeks back, something Klopp was keen to point out in his press conference. He knows, for sure, that this will be a difficult game.
“When I saw Hull play [against Manchester United] I could not see why they are down there,” he said. He added that players like Tom Huddlestone are “outstanding”.
Most of the press conference, however, was dominated by other issues.
On Mamadou Sakho, the German left the door open for a potential – if unlikely – return: “Who knows what will change in [the next] five months? He still has a contract with Liverpool”.
Jose Mourinho’s comments yesterday about Jurgen Klopp being treated differently to himself by officials also inevitably came up.
Klopp admitted he might have been “lucky” to get away with his touchline antics, but also noted that his Old Trafford opponent did not need to go out of his way to speak about him. His interview with the BBC was particularly spiky.
“I have no idea why he spoke about me,” he said, adding nothing to the feud that Mourinho attempted to create, and moving matters on quickly.
Having played ten games in little over a month, Jurgen Klopp will see his team play just three times in each of February and March as a result of being knocked out of both domestic cup competitions.
The additional preparation should be beneficial to his side in the push for the top four places; a win on Saturday would put Liverpool in a good place to go on and cement their current position at the very least. Anything other than a victory would be a huge blow.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 15:00 GMT. It is not live on TV in England.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Lee Mason – not one of the elite referees in the Premier League, Mason has been involved in the top flight for a number of years without ever really getting many of the biggest games. The Bolton-based official has shown two red cards this campaign so far: one to Papy Djilibodji of Sunderland and one to Fernandinho of Manchester City.
He took charge of Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat away at Burnley in August, and has refereed three of Hull’s matches – defeats against Bournemouth (6-1), Sunderland (3-0) and West Ham (1-0).
Hull City have only lost one of their last four home fixtures against Liverpool, winning two and drawing one.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Lallana, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho
Hull City: Jakupovic; Meyler, Dawson, Maguire, Robertson; Huddlestone, Clucas, Evandro, Tymon; Niasse, Hernandez
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