Liverpool play Wolves at Anfield for their final Premier League game of 2019. The Reds currently hold a 13-point lead over second place and have a game in hand. A win would not only maintain or extend that advantage but also increase their unbeaten run at Anfield to 50 games.
Their opponents Wolves have turned their season around after a poor start. Due to European commitments they found themselves languishing around the relegation zone, recent victories have seen them climb to fifth where they sit just two points behind the Champions League places.
Liverpool travelled to Leicester City on Boxing Day and they gave their opponents a real beating. Liverpool went into half time with a one-goal advantage after Roberto Firmino headed in a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold to score for the third consecutive game.
Some of Liverpool’s play throughout the match was jaw-droppingly good — the way the midfield toyed with a young, energetic side with one touch football at times was mesmerising. Such was Liverpool’s dominance that Leicester failed to register a shot on target for the whole game.
The Reds began to run riot past the 70th minute mark, as three goals in seven minutes gave the Reds an impressive four-goal lead which reflected their performance and the gulf on class between the two sides on the night.
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James Milner scored a penalty just after coming on, before Firmino scored his second and Liverpool’s third after excellent build up play down the right-hand side and Alexander-Arnold capped off a man-of-the-match performance with an arrowed strike into the bottom corner.
Liverpool opponents on Sunday did the Reds a huge favour in the title race on Friday evening. Despite having a man advantage beyond the 12th minute, they found themselves two goals down after 50 minutes.
Adama Traoré stepped up and produced a performance similar to his one at the Etihad for the final 40 minutes. He scored minutes after Sterling doubled City’s lead to give the home side hope of completing a comeback. He then put it on a plate for Raúl Jiménez after robbing Benjamin Mendy of possession to level proceedings.
Matt Doherty completed an unlikely comeback as he scored in the 90th minute which means City are now 14 points behind Liverpool and have played a game more.
Jordan Henderson faces a fight to be fit after an injury scare late on at the King Power Stadium. The captain went off with an injury to his leg, but it has been confirmed to be nothing more than a knock. Adam Lallana will likely start in his place if the skipper is not ready for this one.
Other than that, Jürgen Klopp will probably name an unchanged line-up. Lack of options in defence and midfield due to injuries mean no changes can be made without significantly weakening the team while the front three will be needed against a well-drilled Wolves side.
Nuno Espírito Santo may make a few changes to avoid his players getting fatigued — they play just 46 hours after the Man City game and, with Champions league football within reach, injuries need to be avoided with such a small squad.
Romain Saïss will probably keep his place due to Willy Boly’s injury, though young defender Max Kilman could be in line for some action against the world champions.
The midfield will likely remain the same while Rúben Vinagre could replace Jonny Castro at left wing-back. The forward line could be unchanged, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Patrick Cutrone play ahead of Raúl Jiménez.
Adama Traoré terrorised the Manchester City defence on Friday evening, and probably stays in the starting line-up to try to do the same to the Reds.
Wolves are a very dangerous side, as seen in their two games against Man City. They showed at the Etihad that they can soak up the pressure and hit a team on the counter, while their home game showed that they can break down a deep block, albeit with an extra man.
Traoré is the obvious danger on current form, but his two partners in crime Jiménez and Jota will be a handful. Liverpool are the only traditional ‘top six’ side who have gained maximum points against Wolves since the start of last season and with the form they are in I can see that being extended to a third game.
I think Liverpool will win by a couple of goals, but it won’t be an easy game. Proceedings will be tight, and the Reds must be patient throughout to find a telling breakthrough.
Predicted final score: Liverpool 3-1 Wolves