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    Liverpool vs Swansea City Match Preview

    Liverpool will be looking to extend their excellent run under Jurgen Klopp when they entertain an out-of-form Swansea side who are in desperate need of a victory themselves. A run of just one win in nine league matches, coupled with an early exit from the Capital One Cup, has cranked up the pressure on Garry Monk, who has already lost four times to Liverpool as Swansea manager. He will no doubt be inspired by the last league visitors to Anfield, Crystal Palace, who demonstrated that there are still vulnerabilities in the Liverpool team as they produced a masterclass in counter-attacking football to win 2-1 three weeks ago.

    Despite Liverpool gaining a respectable draw at Tottenham in Klopp's first game in charge, followed by wins at Chelsea and Manchester City, Klopp has not yet tasted success at Anfield in the league. This has been down to a number of factors, the most prominent being that they are often more susceptible on the counter-attack at home. They have also had trouble breaking down stubborn defences, with teams putting more men behind the ball, and have suffered a profligacy in front of goal due to the absence of a number of attacking players. With Daniel Sturridge nearing a return to the side and both Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in excellent form, there is no better time than against Swansea on Sunday to replicate at Anfield what they have managed so successfully away from home.

    Klopp faces the dilemma of whether to stay faithful to Christian Benteke, a scorer in the 2-1 win over Bordeaux on Thursday night, or leave out Roberto Firmino, who produced a devastating performance against Manchester City last weekend. If Liverpool do opt for the formula that has served them so successfully away from home by choosing Firmino over of Benteke, it would signal a change in philosophy at Anfield of playing a 'false number 9' and no out-and-out striker. Due to Swansea being so excellent in keeping the ball, it may even force Klopp into sticking with the side that beat Manchester City and treating Sunday's encounter like an away match. It could even suit Liverpool if they let Swansea dominate possession before hitting them on the counter-attack, as long as they stay disciplined and execute the high-press gameplan to perfection. 

    It is due to Liverpool's strong attacking options and excellent form that they will not be desperate to rush Sturridge's return to first-team action until he has fully-recovered from the foot problem that forced him to sit out Thursday's win over Bordeaux. The England striker is unlikely to start the match, despite being assessed before kick-off, but Coutinho is expected to return to the side after shaking off the hamstring injury that ruled him out against Bordeaux. There has only been one occasion this season where Sturridge, Benteke, Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana have all featured throughout the same 90 minutes, so Klopp may have the services of all five attacking players at his disposal for the first time since taking over as manager from Brendan Rodgers.

    Coutinho's return to form has been a crucial part in Liverpool's revival under Jurgen Klopp and if he reaches the heights that he has scaled in the past three matches, scoring four times, then Swansea will have their work cut out in trying to stop him. Often when games are tight, such as against Stoke in August and against Chelsea last month, the Brazilian magician offers the quality to unlock a defence that few others in world football possess. With Liverpool and Swansea masters in the art of exciting football, and famous for their ball possession and attacking flair, the stage is set for Coutinho to find the pockets of space that few others can find and to continue his impressive form that has helped turn around his side's fortunes in recent weeks.

    Another player that has played a big part in Liverpool's revival under Klopp is Adam Lallana, who is finally justifying his £25 million price tag after moving from Southampton in the summer of 2014. Lallana has recently shown what a clever player he is, often making intelligent runs where he uses himself as a decoy in order to drag out defenders, which creates space for the likes of Coutinho, Benteke and Firmino. With the prospect of Sturridge and Benteke returning to the side, it could make Lallana's position in the team vulnerable, so he will be extra motivated to impress this weekend. Also, like Coutinho, it is the kind of fixture where he will be afforded the space to cause Swansea problems so it could therefore be the perfect stage for him on Sunday to demonstrate his talents.

    Despite beginning the season by taking eight points from a possible 12, Swansea have slumped in recent weeks and have subsequently taken six points from 27 available. The poor run started immediately after the club's 2-1 victory over Manchester United in August, where Bafetimbi Gomis scored for the fourth consecutive match. The Frenchman's failure to net in the following 10 matches has contributed to the club's poor form, although he is not alone in showing a profligacy in front of goal. Wayne Routledge has failed to score this season (eight matches), as have Eder (13), Modou Barrow (5), Ki Sung-Yueng (13), Jefferson Montero (12), Leon Britton (7) and Jack Cork (10). Even Jonjo Shelvey and Gylfi Sigurdsson have failed to score from open play so far this campaign.

    Former Liverpool midfielder Shelvey, who has also played in five of England's six matches this season, had to wait until last weekend to open his goalscoring account and will be a big loss to his side on Sunday as he misses out through suspension. The 23-year-old's equalizing goal from the penalty spot was crucial in restoring confidence to Swansea's season, when they came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Bournemouth last weekend. There was a tinge of disappointment with the result, however, as 'The Swans' failed to score a winning goal in over 50 minutes that remained against their struggling opponents, who had lost five consecutive matches.

    Swansea's best player this season has been Andre Ayew, who has stepped up to the plate whilst others have endurred a barren run in front of goal. The Ghanain international, who plays as an attacking midfielder, has scored six times this campaign and the club have never been on the losing side when he has scored. The 25-year-old seems to deliver his best performances against the bigger teams, as was the case when he scored against Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham earlier in the season. Ayew, who was signed on a free transfer from Marseille in the summer, has been linked with a move to Anfield in recent weeks so there is no better way to impress his potential suitors than scoring against them on Sunday.

    In Sylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea possess one of the best free-kick specialists in the country and this may be the away side's best chance of scoring if it is a tight match. The 26-year-old demonstrated against Aston Villa, where he scored a sublime free-kick from 20 yards, that there is no safe place in the final quarter of the pitch when the Swansea man is around. He also has fond memories of playing against Liverpool, having scored a 90th minute equalizer from the penalty spot for Reading in an FA Cup tie at Anfield in 2010, a match they went on to win 2-1. Liverpool will need to be at their best in order to cut off the supply lines to the Icelandic international as well as defending his delivery into the box, which the likes of Gomis and Eder will be relying upon.

    Liverpool have dominated this fixture for the past few years, winning the last four meetings in all competitions and remaining unbeaten for the past seven encounters. The last time Swansea beat Liverpool was in a League Cup tie at Anfield in October 2012, when Chico Flores, Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman inflicted a 3-1 defeat on former boss Brendan Rodgers and went on to win the trophy. It was Rodgers who had masterminded Swansea's first win over Liverpool in over 30 years, a 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium, in his final game as the club's manager in May 2012. The last meeting between the two sides was in March, when Jordan Henderson's 68th minute winner was the difference between the teams in Wales.

    Daniel Sturridge's fitness will be monitored ahead of the match, after a foot problem delayed his long-awaited return to the Liverpool first-team on Thursday. Philippe Coutinho is a doubt with a hamstring injury, while the club must do without the services of Lucas Leiva, who is suspended. Jordan Henderson (metatarsal) and Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) are both nearing a return to action but are unlikely to play any part on Sunday. They join Jose Enrique (hamstring), Mamadou Sakho, Danny Ings, Joe Gomez and Jon Flanagan (all knee) on the sidelines. Swansea are currently the only team in the Premier League with a fully-fit squad, although they will be without their influential midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who is suspended.

    Score Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Swansea City
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool vs Swansea City Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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