Our disappointing draw at the Emirates last week was only slightly deflating in the nature in which the point was gained as opposed to actually gaining a point. Having dominated most of the game we nearly gave the win away in six crazy second half minutes. Although Roberto Firmino scored to salvage a point, albeit luckily due to Petr Cech’s apparently flimsy wrists, it was a point that should have been three. The unhappiness surrounding the Arsenal debacle was quickly forgotten about thanks to a Boxing Day pummelling of Swansea City at Anfield and the imminent arrival of world record centre half signing, Virgil van Dijk. With Claude Puel’s Leicester City coming to Anfield tomorrow, it seems there is more to be positive about than to dread for a change.
This is not the only game Liverpool will be forced to play in this weekend though. After the visit of The Foxes, Liverpool will be on the road themselves to make the short journey to the end of the M60 to face Burnley at Turf Moor. “We have to be fully concentrated on the Leicester game and after the Leicester game we have a few hours to ‘collect the bones’ to see who is able to play against Burnley and then we’ll make the line-up. It’s different. We don’t moan about it. We play Leicester, we play Burnley and we play Everton [in the FA Cup] – no problem with that.” Klopp continued: “It all depends on injuries. We feel really well-prepared.”
Liverpool faced a similar situation this time last year which didn’t end so well. After defeating Manchester City in the final game of 2016, we would only beat Plymouth in January in the F.A Cup. That month also saw us crash out of the Capital One Cup thanks to 1-0 defeats in both legs of the semi-final against Southampton, and the F.A Cup after being beaten 2-1 at home by Wolves. We wouldn’t win a league game until early February when we defeated Spurs 2-0 at Anfield. Klopp was asked about this in his press conference yesterday and said, “It’s not that last year we were not prepared for this period; we had injuries in the wrong moment. That’s how it is. We have injuries now – hopefully there will not be a few more players injured. If we have our squad together then we are prepared for pretty much everything. Now, the focus is on Leicester. We are prepared for that game, for sure, and then we will see.”
Todays game will be a test of Klopp’s statement of his sides preparation for the coming games. Virgil van Dijk, although having been confirmed as a Liverpool signing, cannot make his debut until 1st January at the earliest so is unavailable for this one. Joel Matip made his return against Swansea but is unlikely to be risked here with Burnley just 48 hours later. Jordan Henderson has been ruled out for two months, which is a blow considering he is our captain after all. Emre Can is looking probably to deputise for Henderson in meantime. Klopp has tinkered a lot with his starting forwards this season and it is impossible to call who will start up front for Liverpool here. Sadio Mane looks likely to come back into the fold having been moved to the bench for the game on Boxing Day. Who he will replace is still to be determined.
In contrast to the magnificent festive period Liverpool have had so far, Leicester come into this game having been beaten at Vicarage Road against Watford in their last game. The run of games seems to have taken its toll on The Foxes squad however. Claude Puel confirmed in his press conference that Danny Simpson has been ruled out for four or five weeks due to an injury he picked up against Watford. There is better news for Leicester fans as Robert Huth will start playing for their development squad over the coming weeks following a long injury lay off, although this game has come too soon for him. Matty James also returned to the Leicester bench recently but is unlikely to be risked for this game.
Jurgen Klopp will want to end the year on a high having so far only being beaten twice in the league this season. His side have been in a rich vein of form lately and a victory here is the only option, despite recent criticism of Liverpool’s home form. Leicester are a good side notwithstanding their early season form. The introduction of Claude Puel seems to have stopped the rot for them and they now find themselves 8th in the Premier League. This is by no means a gimme for Liverpool. With Burnley and Everton on the horizon, it’s clear the next six days are going to be tricky to negotiate. Good job we now have defensive reinforcements.