Wolverhampton vs Liverpool
| Friday, December 21st |
Premier League | Molineux Stadium
8PM BST / 3PM EST
For 17 hours at least, the Reds have a chance to increase the gap down to second-placed Manchester City to four points. Roy Hodgsons’s Crystal Palace will surely roll over for Pep Guardiola’s charges on Saturday afternoon, but some breathing room in what has been a claustrophobic top two would go a long way for the Merseysiders and their fans.
To create that gap, though, Jürgen Klopp’s men will have to overcome Wolverhampton at the Molineux. The Jorge Mendes-sponsored outfit sit seventh in the Premier League, 20 points back of Friday’s opponents, having scored and conceded 19 goals. Former porto coach Nuno Espírito Santo has the Wolves playing a dynamic 3-4-3 formation, relying on the back three — starring former Red Conor Coady — and midfield two — featuring once and forever Liverpool target Ruben Neves — to shore up the defensive end of things, the front three to do the scoring, while the endlessly industrious wingbacks to contribute significantly at both ends.
For such a dicey set-up, the Midlands side have done well for themselves on both ends of the pitch, and had they possessed more individual quality around their superb central midfield, would probably be sat comfortably ahead of Manchester United in the table. The Wanderers are not to be taken lightly, is the point, and focus and discipline in defensive transitions — or avoiding them altogether — will be crucial if the Reds are to bring home all three points tomorrow night.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Clyne, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Keïta, Shaqiri; Mané, Firmino, Salah
For once, the holiday programme looks relatively kind to the Reds — despite facing some illustrious opposition in Arsenal and Manchester City — as Liverpool will have more rest days between their first and last game of the period than any other side in the league. As such, squad rotation will be less of a pivotal factor than could be the case for other teams.
Good job, too, because Klopp’s squad has been picking up knocks in recent weeks. Joël Matip and Joe Gomez remain sidelined with injuries, while Friday’s game will arrive too soon for Trent Alexander-Arnold, meaning a repeat of the defensive line-up that overcame Manchester United on Sunday.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson may return to the starting XI, while James Milner looks set for a game-day fitness test. Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum both played 90 minutes against Utd, which could mean another appearance of the 4-2-3-1 formation, complete with starting minutes for last game’s man of the hour, Xherdan Shaqiri.
This is an outstanding opportunity to put some pressure on Guardiola’s City as the teams enter a busy holiday period that will end with the top two facing off on January 3rd.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “So far they haven’t played us. That has to be a new experience for them. We have to be really strong. It will be a really interesting game. We have to be ready for everything.”
Nuno Espírito Santo: “They’re fantastic, everybody can see what Klopp is doing and the way Liverpool plays and what they’re achieving and building. They’re top of the league, it says we’re going to face one of the best teams in Europe, we look forward to it”
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistant referees: Lee Betts, Richard West
Fourth official: Michael Oliver
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.