Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 8/11
Liverpool will play host to Nottingham Forest at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, in what will officially be round 32 of the 2022/23 Premier League season. Both teams have their reasons to work hard to nail every point they can get between now and the end of the season, so the contest should be an interesting one. It should also be said that Liverpool have a game in hand on the teams that have played every round so far, so for them, it’s actually game number 31 of the campaign.
Much has been said about the season Liverpool have had, one that particularly stung the eyes and souls of their supporters after the previous one where they fought for all four trophies until the very end, winning two in the end.
Some point to the emotional drain such a demanding campaign caused as the reason for what’s been happening this term, while others believe it’s all about the Merseysiders’ inability or lack of intention to freshen the squad up over the last few transfer windows, particularly in the midfield department. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but there’s nothing else for Jurgen Klopp and his team to do but to remain focused on the remaining eight games and do the best they can. Where that will put them in the end, remains to be seen, but it’s probably safe to say they won’t be playing in the Champions League next term.
Be that as it may, Liverpool are currently eighth with 47 points, nine less than Newcastle in fourth, six less than Tottenham Hotspur in fifth, three less than Aston Villa in sixth, and two less than Brighton and Hove Albion in seventh. And while they have a game in hand on Spurs and Villa, Brighton actually have a game in hand on them.
The Reds have shown some signs of improvement in the last two games, but their last-six run still makes a rather grim read for those holding the six-time European champions close to their hearts. It starts with a 1-0 defeat away to Bournemouth, followed by the confirmation of their Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid – a 1-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, and a 4-1 thrashing suffered away to defending Premier League champions Manchester City. After that they played a goalless draw away to Chelsea, before coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home against league leaders Arsenal. On Monday this week, they ran riot away to Leeds United, winning 1-6.
At the moment, Klopp has four players he cannot count on, which is actually an improvement on their fortunes in that area this term. Defender Calvin Ramsay (knee), midfielders Naby Keita (muscle) and Stefan Bajcetic (groin), and forward Roberto Firmino (muscle) will all miss this clash.
Alisson Becker will surely stand between the posts, with Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate as the centre-back pair. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold should cover the defensive flanks, though the latter will probably be instructed to drift into the central areas of the pitch and join Fabinho in providing protection to the back line, as he did in the last two games. Thiago Alcantara could get his first start in a long time, alongside captain Jordan Henderson. Mohamed Salah will be attacking from the right, with Cody Gakpo probably playing through the middle and Diogo Jota on the left, leaving Darwin Nunez and freshly returned Luis Diaz on the bench.
The 1979 and 1980 European champions only returned to the Premier League this season, and they face a desperate struggle to keep the top flight status for 2023/24. To do that, they need every point they can get, and on one hand, they will be encouraged by the fact that they beat Liverpool at the City Ground in the first half of the season, but on the other, they will be aware that facing Liverpool in front of 54,000 mostly home supporters at Anfield is an entirely different prospect.
At the moment, Steve Cooper’s team top the relegation zone with 27 points, with only Leicester City (25) and Southampton (24) doing worse. Their best hope of survival is to try and rise above Everton (17th, 27 points) or Leeds (16th, 29). West Ham (15th, 31) are not too far away either, but the East Londoners have a game in hand on every other relegation threatened team and they’ve been showing signs of improvement recently.
But the most worrying aspect of all for Forest ahead of the Liverpool trip is that they earned only one point from their last six outings, coming from a 1-1 draw at home against Wolves. The list also includes a 3-1 defeat away to Spurs, a 1-2 defeat at home against Newcastle, a 2-1 defeat away to Leeds, a 2-0 defeat away to Aston Villa, and a 0-2 defeat at home against Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Cooper has a very long list of injury absentees. The names of goalkeeper Dean Henderson (thigh), defenders Giulian Biancone (knee), Willy Boly (thigh), Omar Richards (calf) and Serge Aurier (muscle), midfielders Ryan Yates (shoulder), Cheikhou Kouyate (hamstring) and Gustavo Scarpa (knee), as well as striker Chris Wood (thigh), are on it.
The only remotely good piece of news is that midfielder Jack Colback could be back after overcoming a concussion, but it remains to be seen.
With Keylor Navas, who beat Liverpool with Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final, in goal, Scott McKenna, Moussa Niakhate and Felipe should form the back line of three, which could become five at need through wingbacks Renan Lodi and former Liverpool player Neco Williams dropping deeper. Remo Freuler and Danilo should play in the middle of the park, with Morgan Gibbs-White slightly more advanced to support attackers Brennan Johnson, and another ex-Liverpool player, Taiwo Awoniyi.
Regardless of the previous encounter between these teams, there’s only one favourite to win this one and that’s Liverpool.
With three goals in the last two games, Mohamed Salah is likely to continue his scoring run on Saturday.
Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 8/11
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