Writer: Gavin John Day
Date:Tuesday December 31 2013
Barclays Premier League
Liverpool will be eager to kick-off 2014 in style after slipping out of the all important top four over Christmas.
Although there is no shame in losing by a single goal away from home to the strongest two teams in the league - Manchester City and Chelsea - the results have certainly harmed the Merseysiders' prospects.
The quality of the performances remained good however and the fixture schedule during January looks a kind one so the ground can easily be regained.
Hull City won't be a push over though as Brendan Rodgers and his players found out exactly a month ago when they were beaten 3-1 at the KC Stadium.
Since then the Tigers, managed by old adversary Steve Bruce, have risen to 10th in the standings with three draws and a 6-0 hammering of Fulham last time out.
Rogers: "We know it's going to be like any other game at this level; a very tough game. They're coming off the back of a victory that doesn't happen too often when you're in the Premier League, especially when it's 0-0 at half-time. It was a terrific result.
"We were very disappointed in our performance level there. We were nowhere near the standard we would expect, but you have to give credit to Hull - they exposed that on the day.
"But we aim to make sure that no matter what squad or team we put out, we don't make the same mistakes again because home games are vitally important for us."
The Reds go into this encounter with their manager admitting the squad is over-stretched through injuries. The defeat at Stamford Bridge was compounded by the loss of Joe Allen (abductor) and Mamadou Sakho (hamstring). Both could be missing for a number of weeks and they join the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jose Enrique, Jon Flanagan and Sebastian Coates in the treatment room. Fortunately captain Steven Gerrard could return from his own hamstring problems in time for this fixture. Elsewhere, midfield partner Jordan Henderson has been passed fit despite picking up a knock and on-loan Chelsea winger Victor Moses is available again after being ineligible against his parent club.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Cissokho, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez
With Allen out and Gerrard just back from injury and unlikely to play the full 90, the onus is likely to be on Henderson to dictate play from the middle of the park. The England international had enjoyed an impressive season so far and the stats show how important he has become. Along with Suarez, Henderson has the joint most open play assists in the team with 5 and has created a total of 34 chances for others to date. His passing accuracy is another standout figure with 87% of the 963 passes attempted completed successfully while defensively he has done more than his fair share with 47 tackles, winning 35 of them.
Nigerian international forward Sone Aluko (calf) and Irish wide pair Robbie Brady (groin) and Stephen Quinn (hamstring) are all likely to miss out on the trip to Anfield through injury. Formation wise, Bruce generally operates with Yannick Sagbo as a lone striker but he could freshen things up by selecting either Danny Graham of George Boyd, who scored from a wide left position against Fulham, up top instead. Defensively Hull have done well on their return to the top flight; conceding the same number of goals as Liverpool (23) and less than the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United. The likelihood therefore is the side will be unaltered from that which won handsomely at the weekend.
McGregor, Rosenior, Davies, Chester, Figueroa, Livermore, Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Koren, Boyd, Sagbo
The former Spurs star appears to be rediscovering his best form after a couple of years hampered by injury and non-selection. The midfielder's performance against the Cottagers was exceptional and there are very few English players who can match Huddlestone's technical ability and range of passing when he's on song. His confidence will also have been boosted after the 27-year-old scored for the first time in 32 months. Huddlestone is clearly key to making Hull tick with a team-high 970 passes, 79% of which have been accurate.
• Liverpool and Hull have met just 14 times in their respective histories and the Reds hold the upper hand overall with 10 wins to 1 and 3 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 39 goals compared to a tally of 19 by the Tigers.
• Hull's win on December 1st was their first ever victory over Liverpool in any competition. They are therefore still without a victory at Anfield.
• Liverpool have scored at least three goals in each of their last six Premier League home games and their overall total at Anfield (25) this season is three more than Hull have scored altogether (22).
• Luis Suarez has scored 13 goals in his last five Premier League home games.
• Hull have hit fewer shots than any other side in the Premier League this season (147).
• Fortunately they've been less reliant on a single goalscorer with 13 different players on target this season, no team has seen a wider spread.
• Liverpool's total of 124 shots on target is almost double that of Hull (65) while they've also hit the woodwork 16 times this season, twice as often as any other side.
Craig Pawson is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The Sheffield based whistle blower has taken charge of 12 games so far this season, showing 51 yellow cards and three red. The 34-year-old, who is yet to take charge of a match involving Liverpool, is in his first full season as a member of the Select Group of Referees who oversee Premier League fixtures.
Hull arrive in high spirits and in a position to express themselves knowing they're not expected to get a result and ultimately the fixture won't determine the outcome of their season anyway. The pressure is therefore on Liverpool who need to earn all three points after their back-to-back defeats. Rodgers' men will also be eager to banish the memory of the KC defeat which was probably their worse display with the Northern Irishman in charge. Despite having to contend with a lengthy injury list the Reds will be fully expected to bounce back to winning ways. Replicating the Chelsea and Manchester City performances should be more than enough to secure victory and hopefully our run of poor officiating will also come to an end!
Vital Liverpool predicts a 3-1 win
Liverpool - FA Cup vs. Oldham Athletic at Anfield on Sunday 5th January 2014, kick off 3.00pm GMT.
Hull City - FA Cup vs. Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday 4th January 2014, kick off 3.00pm GMT.
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Date:Tuesday December 31 2013
Liverpool: Anfield Expansion Moves A Step Closer (Thursday April 17 2014)
Liverpool: Sturridge In Fitness Race (Thursday April 17 2014)
Liverpool: Manchester City Drop Points! (Wednesday April 16 2014)
Liverpool: Flanagan Set For England Call (Wednesday April 16 2014)
Liverpool: Mini-Derby Ends In A Draw (Tuesday April 15 2014)
Liverpool: Diame Still On The Wanted List? (Tuesday April 15 2014)
Liverpool: The 25th Anniversary Of Hillsborough (Tuesday April 15 2014)
Liverpool: 'Nothing Is Ours Yet' - Gerrard (Monday April 14 2014)
Liverpool: City Result Is Already Meaningless! (Monday April 14 2014)
Liverpool: Next Game Remains Key - Rodgers (Monday April 14 2014)
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