On a weekend full of notable events surrounding Premier League managers--Harry Redknapp takes over for the dismissed Mark Hughes, Rafa Benitez is at the helm for Chelsea against Manchester City--Brendan Rodgers' first trip back to Swansea City has taken its share of the headlines, and it's likely that the conversation will continue well into the match tomorrow.
And while it's a nice story and there's bound to be some warm fuzzies and/or derisory chants directed towards both him and Joe Allen, tomorrow's less about the sentiment and more about Liverpool's need to continue to trend positively in the Premier League. The final forty-five minutes against Wigan were close to as good as anything the club's put together this season, and there's a need for that to continue if Liverpool are going to slowly but surely continue their ascent up the table. Drawing with Young Boys on Thursday certainly wasn't ideal, but that can't detract from the focus on the weekend and, at least for many, this season's top priority.
A win tomorrow would see them leapfrog their opponents and draw closer to Arsenal, Spurs, and West Ham, who've started the season much more brightly than many had predicted. Swansea are currently on 16 points, one ahead of Liverpool and unbeaten in their last three, with a win at St. James' Park last time out. It's continued to be a fairly up-and-down first season for Michael Laudrup, but the new manager's done largely positive work in replacing Brendan Rodgers and has guided the Welsh club to a number of impressive performances, including the comprehensive 3-1 win over Liverpool in the League Cup.
Laudrup should have a full squad available, with Ki Sung-yeung and Kyle Bartley back, and each of Danny Graham, Luke Moore, and Ben Davies returning to full health. Much of the focus will be on the tremendously impressive Michu, who's scored seven goals in twelve matches and has spearheaded Swansea's attack. The rest are relatively familiar faces, many of whom featured in the victory at Anfield on Halloween--Leon Britton's a mainstay in central midfield, with Ki and Jonathan De Guzman also getting regular time, and Nathan Dyer and Pablo Hernandez supporting from the wide areas. Ashley Williams will certainly start in central defense after a week that's seen his quotes about Luis Suarez get plenty of attention, and Garry Monk, Angel Rangel, and Ben Davies will likely round out the back four in front of Gerhard Tremmel.
Wisdom Skrtel Agger Johnson
Sterling Suarez Enrique
The biggest question for tomorrow's squad is whether or not Andre Wisdom is fit--he came off as a precaution in the first half against Young Boys, and Brendan Rodgers has given assurances that he should be ready. We do know for sure that Lucas is out (but getting much closer) along with Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini.
Wisdom's availability has ripples throughout the rest of the squad; at the back it determines whether or not Glen Johnson continues at left-back or if he has to move back to the right. The latter would require that Jose Enrique move back deeper after impressing further forward against Wigan. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel should partner in central defense, and Pepe Reina--who's again found himself the subject of criticism (which I feel is a little harsh) after conceding two on Thursday--will start in goal.
Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard are the locks in central midfield, and the only uncertainty is around who'll round out the three-man midfield. It's been a revolving door at times this season, with consensus having Nuri Sahin as the best option in a slower-paced, less physical match, Jordan Henderson when the match needs more tempo and pressuring, and Jonjo Shelvey to ostensibly provide more direct goalscoring support. Sahin was much better midweek and will probably start here, with Henderson and Shelvey left to come off the bench.
The effect of Wisdom's fitness rounds out here, with Jose Enrique potentially resuming his sojourn forward so long as Glen Johnson can slot in on the left. Raheem Sterling's done well on the right and Luis Suarez will be the man in the middle, and if Enrique and Johnson can replicate what they produced on the left last weekend it'll be a long day for Swansea's right flank. Suso or Oussama Assaidi would appear most likely to join Sterling and Suarez if Enrique has to return to left-back.
Earlier kickoff tomorrow, with the opening whistle set for 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST and television coverage on ESPN2/ESPN3.com in the US and Sky Sports 1 in the UK. We'll have the overnight open thread and matchday post to see things through as usual, and team sheets will feature in the latter around an hour before the match starts. As always, you can find us lurking over the next day or so in the comments or over on Twitter.
Hope you've all settled into the weekend well after the holiday (for those who celebrated), and that we can round off the weekend nicely tomorrow.