Preview: Liverpool vs Cardiff City
Following a 4-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade, Klopp and his team are raring to go in the league.
Newly promoted side Cardiff City will be the Reds next opponents. The 2 sides last met during the 13/14 season, when Suarez and co were gunning for the title. Then, the match ended 6-3 in Liverpool’s favour, and the current team will be looking for a similar result.
With Liverpool looking to extend their unbeaten run in the league, let us examine the key pointers for the game.
Keeping Shaqiri In The Fold
Making his first European start for Liverpool, Shaqiri had a huge say in the Reds opening 2 goals. For the first, he released Robertson with an inch-perfect through ball to allow the Scotsman to cross for Firmino. That was followed up with a perfect assist for Salah, with his deft touch sending the Egyptian through on goal. Substituted in the 69th minute for Lallana, the former Stoke City player was rightly given a standing ovation by the fans.
Given that he was substituted that early, it’s fair to assume that Shaqiri will play some part in Saturday’s game. Though one can’t be certain whether he’ll start, Klopp should be looking to keep Shaqiri in the starting XI. For starters, him playing would get the best out of Salah, with the No. 11 already benefiting from 3 assists. And against a Cardiff side that’s expected to pack men behind the ball, Shaqiri’s technique and eye for a killer pass would be of crucial importance.
With an assist every 86.7 minutes in all competitions, the Swiss will likely play a key role in ensuring the Reds bag all 3 points.
Xherdan Shaqiri (1.04) has registered more assists per 90 mins in the Premier League and Champions League this season than any other player for Liverpool.
An assist every 86.7 minutes. ?️ pic.twitter.com/Wm2r1WPr3i
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 25, 2018
Stick To 4-2-3-1?
Against Red Star, Klopp shifted from his usual 4-3-3 formation and instead opted for 4-2-3-1 formation. That system got the best out of the personnel chosen for the job. Fabinho particularly flourished in that system, with Klopp joking at the end of the game that playing with a double No. 6 was his birthday gift for the Brazilian. Partnered alongside Wijnaldum, Fabinho was like a one man shield in front of Liverpool’s back line. Winning a monstrous 9 tackles, more than any Liverpool player in a single match this season, the former Monaco man showed why he was one of the most sought after No. 6 in Europe.
With Henderson and Keita ruled out of the Cardiff game, Fabinho could be given an extended run in the first team. Putting in such a dominant performance in midweek only strengthens his case to start against Cardiff. Knowing that his No. 3 plays best in a double No. 6 system, Klopp could stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday.
That however is a fairly narrow system and would rely on Liverpool’s overlapping fullbacks to provide width. With Cardiff having 34% and 40 % of their attacks through their left and right flanks respectively, Robertson and Trent will have their work cut out at Anfield.
Led by Neil Warnock, Cardiff were one of the 3 Championship sides to be promoted last season. But while Wolves and Fulham invested heavily in their squads, Cardiff spent only a mere €30.75 million during the summer. That lack of recruitment is perhaps why the Bluebirds are struggling in the league. Prior to last weekend’s 4-2 win over Fulham, the Welsh club only managed 4 goals in their first 8 league games.
17th in the league, the new-boys should hardly be a problem for Klopp’s Reds. Given that the Reds won all seven games against promoted sides under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield by an aggregate score of 21-2, fans should be confident of a win. But as last Saturday’s hard-fought win against Huddersfield showed, the Merseysiders will have to work hard for all 3 points.