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Match Preview: Cardiff City v. Liverpool, 03.22.14

Team news, ways to watch, and a full preview as Liverpool travel to Wales to face Cardiff City.

The busiest week the rest of the way awaits, with Liverpool set to play three times in the next eight days. It's been a tame, rest-heavy schedule since Liverpool's exit from the FA Cup at Arsenal, and after next Spurs' visit to Anfield next Sunday they'll be looking at six matches in six weeks. Each will go a long way toward determining where Liverpool finish the season (unless their spot in the table is secured with a match or two left), and each demand the type of focus we've witnessed in wins at Southampton and Manchester United.

To be fair, that type of focus seems to have been around since the stumble at West Brom, with five wins in a row since the points were shared at the Hawthorns, but it's fashionable to point out the need for extra concentration against opposition at the wrong end of the table so this is me doing that. Cardiff are set for relegation unless they start gathering up points quickly, and while they were impressive in the 3-1 win over Fulham and should have earned a point at Everton, they have to be one of the favorites to go down at this point.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn't had the smoothest tenure to this point; he immediately oversaw an FA Cup victory over Newcastle and won again in the Fourth Round of the competition, but Cardiff have only won twice in the Premier League in 2014, with a February 1 win over Norwich adding to the aforementioned victory over Fulham. Also, this morning he's apparently said that he would prefer Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge so phahahahahaha okay fella.

He'll have a few names missing from the matchday squad through injury, as Ben Turner, Andrew Taylor, and Mark Hudson could all miss out. Against Everton, Solksjaer went with David Marshall in goal (who turned in one of the better goalkeeping displays this season), Kevin Theopile-Catherine, Steven Caulker, Juan Cala, and Fabio across the back, Declan John, Gary Medel, and Kim Bo-Kyung through the midfield, and Craig Noone and Jordon Mutch providing support going forward for Fraizer Campbell. Craig Bellamy missed out completely at Goodison, while Wilfried Zaha, Kenwyne Jones, and Aron Gunnarsson all started on the bench and could feature in some capacity tomorrow.

For Liverpool:

Johnson Skrtel Agger Flanagan
Allen Henderson
Sturridge Suarez

With nothing new to report this week on the injury front, only Jose Enrique will miss out tomorrow. Lucas made a successful return for the final five-plus minutes at Old Trafford, and Mamadou Sakho made the squad on Sunday for the first time since December.

The timing isn't great for either of them; at the back Sakho's going to have to break through the newly solid pairing of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, who've put together consecutive clean sheets away to Southampton and Manchester United. Sakho is undoubtedly one of the most talented defenders in the squad, but on current form I don't think there is any compelling reason to drop either of Agger or Skrtel, let alone anyone else across the back four.

Brendan Rodgers' decision-making through the midfield forward is a little less straightforward, though he seemed to imply that Joe Allen would once again get a start against Cardiff. That would probably mean another go at the diamond formation through the midfield, with one of Philippe Coutinho or Raheem Sterling at the point. Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard are, at this point, nailed-on starters regardless of whether it's a three- or four-man setup, and with Cardiff likely to leave space in front of their back line, it wouldn't be surprising to see Sterling get the nod with Coutinho coming on later.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will lead from the front regardless of what happens behind them, with Suarez apparently the most likely to slide into a wider role if Rodgers decides to change shape from the weekend. Any of the four or so combinations that have been tried over the course of the last month or so have been effective enough, and with one of Coutinho or Sterling coming off the bench, there's finally a match-changing option in attack if things are tight.

Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/11:00AM EST, with NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.

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