Whether it's turning a corner or rumbling on in a straight line after already turning the aforementioned corner, Liverpool are headed in a vastly different direction than they were three weeks ago. Dropping out of the Champions League and further off the pace in the Premier League, things seemed to be headed toward disaster for Brendan Rodgers in his third season on Merseyside.
That's not so much the case anymore, and for most it never really was despite the shouting, with two wins in a row and a legitimate chance at going on a run through the month of January. December finished off nice enough, and a win tomorrow against Leicester would have some legitimate momentum in Liverpool's corner as they kick off 2015. Leicester won't go quietly, of course, as they're looking to get points however possible to stave off relegation. Their win over Hull on Sunday was their first since mid-September, taking them three points--and a handful of goals--away from safety despite being on the bottom of the league table.
In that win against Hull, manager Nigel Pearson went with Ben Hamer in goal, Marcin Wasilewski, Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, and Paul Konchesky at the back, though Konchesky was sent off after receiving two yellow cards and will be ruled out tomorrow. Matthew James, Jefferey Schlupp, Esteban Cambiasso, and Riyad Mahrez started in the midfield with Leonardo Ulloa and David Nugent up top, though Ulloa might miss out tomorrow, potentially joining Kasper Schmeichel on the list of those Pearson will do without.
Can Toure Sakho
Henderson Gerrard Lucas Moreno
No new injury concerns for Liverpool, which means that Brad Jones, Jon Flanagan, Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen, and Glen Johnson remain ruled out, while Dejan Lovren could be making a return after joining training in the past week. Martin Skrtel is suspended after accumulation of yellow cards, which he cemented by literally tearing Wayne Routledge's shorts off and then acting stunned that he was booked on Monday night.
The absence of Skrtel means that there will be at least one new face in Liverpool's defense, and Rodgers could make a change to the team shape as well. More likely seems to be a starting spot for Kolo Toure, who is fit and available before he joins Cote d'Ivoire for the final time at the African Cup of Nations. He should line up with Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho in a three-man back line, each of whom has impressed since their respective returns to the starting eleven.
In the midfield a return for Steven Gerrard appears inevitable, which pushes Jordan Henderson back to a less effective role as right wingback. It would be far more preferable to leave Gerrard on the bench with Henderson and Lucas partnering centrally, especially with Manquillo acquitting himself well against Swansea. Lazar Markovic could make a return on the left as well, but after Alberto Moreno's impressive performance on Monday, it would be nice to see him get another start with Markovic either pushed forward or off the bench in the second half.
That Markovic would displace one of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, or Adam Lallana doesn't seem the likeliest scenario, however, so it seems either wingback or bust until Monday's FA Cup fixture for the Serbian. So long as Coutinho, Sterling, and Lallana keep doing the things they've been doing in the past few weeks, that's not the worst fate for Markovic, who continued his impressive run of form as a substitute earlier in the week. Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert could be in the running as well, but one or both will be expected to start against Wimbledon.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST on Thursday, with NBC Premier League Extra Time/NBC Sports Live Extra providing coverage in the United States. Our coverage will continue with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into live coverage, team sheets an hour before kickoff, and post-match reaction. If you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation account and join us for it.