Fresh from the international break, we resume our Barclays Premier League campaign with another tough fixture against Liverpool. This game comes at the start of a busy, yet historic week for the mighty Swans, with the mouth-watering Europa League match against Valencia on Thursday night, being following by another away match at newly promoted Crystal Palace in the league on Sunday. If you like me are struggling to keep up with all the different kick off times this season, remember, this one is an 8 o’clock start.
All the talk amongst us Jacks has been about the forthcoming Valencia game and it seems that “half of Swansea” is travelling out to Spain for some late summer sunshine. However this match against Liverpool is in reality just as difficult and equally as important. It is essential, therefore that the players are focussed, especially the Spanish boys who will be looking forward to playing against Valencia, otherwise we could be caught out.
“The Pool”, led by former Swansea favourites Brendan Rogers and Colin Pascoe currently hold a 100% record in the league, having won their first 3 opening games against Stoke and Manchester United at home and Aston Villa away. All 3 results were 1-0 victories, with each of the goals coming from Daniel Sturridge, who has clearly stepped up to the plate in the absence of Luis Suarez. Suarez is, of course currently serving a 10 match ban for being over friendly with Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic!
The Liverpool game marks the beginning of a period where we play 7 competitive fixtures in 3 different competitions in less than 3 weeks. Following the Crystal Palace game, we play Birmingham City 2 days later in the third round of the Carling Cup at St Andrews, then Arsenal at home on the Saturday. Fortunately, the squad is largely injury free at present and captain Ashley Williams enjoyed a timely break having been unavailable for Wales versus Serbia last Tuesday night due to suspension.
Laudrup will want to utilise his squad and spread the workload over the next few weeks, however, it is expected that a strong side will be selected both for this match and for the away game in Valencia on Thursday. Jonjo Shelvey will no doubt be champing at the bit and wanting to prove that he was worthy of more game time than he received during his time at Anfield. Personally, I’d love to see him open his goal scoring account in the league for the Swans this Monday. It would do his confidence a power of good and set him up for the rest of the season.
There have been a couple of changes to the squad since our last competitive fixture at West Brom two weeks ago. Getafe’s Spanish under 21 striker Alvaro Vazquez has joined on a season-long loan (with a view to a permanent transfer) and could make the bench on Monday night. Heading the other way has been full back and Welsh international Jaz Richards who has moved to Huddersfield on loan. Jaz needs time on the pitch and as a home grown player, it is good to see him gaining more valuable experience, particularly under a decent manager in Mark Robins, who likes his teams to play football.
It was interesting to see Ben Davies play at centre half for Wales on Tuesday night against Serbia. We know that he has played in that position as a youngster and many observers think that he may return to that position in the longer term. As a young player, the experience of playing in different positions and against good quality opposition will be invaluable.
Rodgers used the summer to make wholesale changes to his squad, spending around £50 million in the process and seeing over 25 players leaving or joining the club. Notable additions have included goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Sunderland, Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea and Swans target Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo. However, the big money was spent on centre back Mamadou Sakho who cost over £16 million from Paris St Germain towards the end of the transfer window. Players who headed for the exit door included Fabio Borini to Sunderland on loan, Stewart Downing to West Ham and Pepe Reina to Napoli.
The possible teams for this game are as follows.
Swansea City: The Swans should be at near full strength on Monday night. Michel Vorm will continue his impressive start to the season in goal, joined again by Rangel, Davies, Williams and Chico at the back. A central midfield of Canas, Shelvey and Michu can be expected, though Leon Britton should again count himself unlucky if he doesn’t get a starting spot. Hernandez and Routledge are likely to occupy the wide positions, though Pozeulo’s impressive cameos off the bench are becoming increasingly noticeable. Bony will start up front. The substitutes are likely to be selected from the following: Tremmel, Amat, Monk, Tiendalli, Britton, De Guzman, Pozeulo, Lamah, Vazquez. Definitely missing through injury will be Neil Taylor and possibly Nathan Dyer.
Liverpool will be missing England international right back Glen Johnson, who is facing an extended lay off. Striker Dean Sturridge was injured for the recent internationals with England, though it is anticipated that he will recover for Monday. With a number of additions in the final days of the transfer window, notably Sakho and Moses, Liverpool are likely to make one or two changes to the squad that faced Aston Villa in their last league outing, though the starting line-up will probably be largely unchanged.
The Liverpool side will be something like this. Mignolet, Wisdom or Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enriqué, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Aspas or Moses, Coutinho, Sturridge. The bench will be strong and should include the likes of new signing Sakho, Alberto, Sterling and Toure, if he is fully fit. Don’t forget former Swan Joe Allen of course. Joe is just returning from injury, so the best he can hope for is a place on the bench.
Finally, it appears that we will be seeing a new slim line Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers arriving at the Liberty on Monday night. Brendan has apparently lost a number of stone following the adoption of a rigid new training programme for himself. This sees him arriving at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground at 7.30am each day and running on his own around the club’s various training pitches. Word has it though that Assistant, Colin Pascoe has resisted the temptation to follow suit, so there’s no risk of the post-match buffet being neglected (sorry Colin, only joking)!