Liverpool vs Sheffield United
| Thursday, January 2nd |
Premier League | Anfield
8PM BST / 3PM EST
For only the third time in the Premier League era, Liverpool top the table at the start of the new year, and never before has the margin been quite as substantial as in 2020, with the Reds a full 13 points ahead of Leicester City in second place, all with a game still in hand.
2019 began with a loss at Manchester City, one that would eventually seal the title for the Citizens, and Sheffield United come to Anfield tomorrow with the aim to spoil the Reds’ opening fixture of the new year. Chris Wilder has his side outperforming the wildest expectations of fans and pundits alike, and the Blades sit eighth in the table, a single point outside the Europa League qualifying spot.
The Yorkies have managed this feat by maximising the talent on hand through a combination of tactical innovation and tenacity, and will have felt hard done by losing to the Reds in the reverse fixture back in September, missing a gilt-edged chance at the death after falling behind to a scuffed Georginio Wijnaldum effort that snuck under Dean Henderson’s body.
Coming off an undeserved loss to Man City at the weekend, the Blades sport a clean bill of health for tomorrow’s matchup, and the main question for Wilder will be whether he persists with the Irish striker David McGoldrick, who, having missed every single one of his eight big chances this season, remains goal-less and will be looking to end his run of bad fortune.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Keïta; Mané, Firmino, Salah
After playing 12 of the 15 matches from their busy end of year-schedule, the Reds have come through with flying colours, winning 10, drawing one, and losing one — the Carabao Cup quarter final against Aston Villa — qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages and winning the Club World Cup along the way.
The squad has not survived unscathed, however, and while Joël Matip and Dejan Lovren reportedly “look good”, they are not yet ready to return, meaning Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk continue at the heart of defence. The pair have managed six clean sheets in six appearances together since the reintroduction of Gomez, though, and their presences should settle the potential nerves of anxious fans.
In midfield, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains unavailable, as does Fabinho, while Jordan Henderson looked spent at the end of another punishing 90 minutes on Sunday, so a return to the starting XI for both James Milner and Naby Keïta could be on the cards.
Takumi Minamino is not yet available to feature in the front line, having been registered with the club for less than 48 hours at kickoff tomorrow, and Xherdan Shaqiri will miss out with a hamstring problem, meaning Divock Origi is the only genuine frontline rotation option for Jürgen Klopp. Should the hero of last year’s European campaign not feature, however, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will do just fine.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “[Sheffield United] are a really well-organised team. Have caused every team problems so far, including Manchester City last week, and will for us tomorrow as well. But we have some quality as well and that is what we will want to show.”
Chris Wilder: “Going to Anfield, iconic stadium, fabulous experience, everything that Liverpool bring to the English game. They are the most powerful, historic of clubs in our game and going so well. But we’d like to put a little bump in their road, as we tried to do at Manchester City.”
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant referees: Daniel Cook, Harry Lennard
Fourth official: Anthony Taylor
VAR: Kevin Friend, Matthew Wilkes
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.