By Ritchie Slack (@Slack_9)
Liverpool return to the capital at the weekend where The Reds have already beaten Chelsea this season and came away with maximum points. West Ham and Arsenal have both fallen victim to Liverpool at Anfield too, making it Liverpool 3, London 0. Liverpool have had a good time playing the clubs from London as of late, and the Reds will be hoping to extend that record come Sunday as they take on Fulham, and on Wednesday when they play Tottenham Hotspur on Merseyside.
Fulham have two victories in their last five games, they have found some form. They have been playing well at times this the season and scoring goals, but, they have also recorded three losses in their past four at Craven Cottage. Scott Parker will be feeling the heat and a win against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will certainly shift momentum in their favour in the dogfight at the bottom.
Liverpool on the other hand are flying high, they are unbeaten in their last seven games in the league since that harrowing day against Aston Villa, scoring fifteen goals in that time and only conceding six. Liverpool have had a good week, welcoming back the returns of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Naby Keita and (hopefully) Alisson Becker and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the squad. Liverpool also ended the week by finishing top of their Champions League group, things are looking rosy for the reds coming in to the pile up of December fixtures; although this season is pretty piled up fixture wise as it is!
Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah has an incredible 82 goals in 118 Premier League appearances, the most of any player since the start of the 2017-18 season. Salah scored in the week to become Liverpool’s highest ever Champions League goal scorer, but the Egyptian king has only netted once in the capital in his previous twelve games (against West Ham last season). In a record-breaking week for the Liverpool hitman, Salah will be hoping to change that record, and although playing the full 90 minutes in a dead rubber match on Wednesday, you just know he will want to be part of this game and add to his 9 goals scored this season, currently 2 behind leader Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Liverpool have had an injury crisis, there is no doubt, but the way in which the youth team have stepped up has been nothing short of incredible. Caoimhin Kelleher, Neco Williams, Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips, Leighton Clarkson and Curtis Jones have all shown what a testament to the clubs academy they are. They have been called upon when the senior pros have been out, and the results have not faltered. They will be called on again this week, and with every opportunity given to them, they grow and develop; the future looks bright for the Liverpool youngsters.
On the subject of the youngsters, Caoimhin Kelleher has been a revelation in goal, pulling off some Becker-like stops and the 22 year-old seems to be confident with the ball at his feet. Klopp could again opt to rest Alisson this weekend, with Wednesday’s top of the table clash against Spurs looming, and you wouldn’t begrudge the young Irishman another go in between the sticks. Whilst you can’t leave a world-class ‘keeper like Alisson Becker out if he is available, an extended rest may be what is best. Klopp has added that Ali will be back in full training today (Friday) and ‘if he trains okay then he can play.’
The defence is pretty much as it was in the week with TAA coming back in to the fold; he will be there alongside Andy Robertson, Joel Matip, Fabinho, Nat Phillips, Rhys Wiliams, Neco Williams and Kostas Tsimikas. Klopp does have options across his back four, although adding Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez to that defence seems a long, long way off yet. Tsimikas took a knock in his impressive display against Midtjylland in the week, but hopefully it is no more than that. Personally, I thought the left fullback played well, looking impressive in offence and making some key blocks and tackles in the game; it is good to know that he has seemingly settled in, allowing Robertson some much needed rest (if he ever needs it!)
As mentioned, Naby Keita is back, adding the ranks of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Curtis Jones and Leighton Clarkson (who also recorded a fine performance on his CL debut). Keita is a player who I feel is one who can set the Premier League alight, if only he can stay fit. His ability on the ball and his pressing prowess off it, is everything Klopp desires, but the best abilty is availability, and thus far, it has been too sporadic from Keita’s point of view to say he has been a success. I am in the corner of should Keita stay fit, he will set the world on fire. James Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri (I think, but really, who knows?) and Thiago are all out.
As for Liverpool’s front force… you would worry as a Fulham fan that Sadio Mane has not scored in his last four games, a drought he has rarely experienced for Liverpool and he will be looking for the floods to flow freely again. Roberto Firmino seems to have discovered his form again after an imposing and inspiring display against Wolves in the 4-0 rout last time out and will look to build upon that performance to gain some consistency moving forwards. Diogo Jota is in good form but had a quiet night in Denmark, albeit he did have a decent chance saved but he was not his usual frightening self. After his wonderful start in a Reds shirt, he can be afforded to have one or two quieter days. Klopp confirmed he has suffered a knock so his inclusion is a doubt.
Jurgen Klopp’s team will face a Fulham side who have their own injuries with Kenny Tete, Terence Kongolo and Onomah all out for the clash in the capital. Fulham will look towards the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to provide a spark in midfield that he has shown glimpses of doing before in the Premier League; alongside him is most likely Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa who has also been commanding in the midfield. There is no doubt Fulham are starting to find their feet in the league after an entertaining couple of games in which some results haven’t gone their way. But, Parker has instilled fight and determination in to his side who came up from the Championship via the playoffs last season. They will be no easy feat for The Red Machine to roll through, but you would expect Liverpool even at semi-best would walk away with another three points in the bag and still top of the league.
The Reds will be looking to pile the pressure on Fulham this weekend; Scott Parker’s side are in 17th place in the league and are fighting a relegation battle. Yet, Liverpool have a battle of their own at the top of the table, and only three points will do.
Up the Reds. YNWA.