Liverpool travel to the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow in a game that pits the current leaders of the form guide versus the bottom side. It’s hard to see the Reds coming away with anything other than three points and it would take a very confident, if not foolhardy man to bet against Brendan Rodgers’ side. To quote the Football Manager press response: “Confidence is high and the team are playing with the freedom this brings…”!
Liverpool are indeed flying high right now on the back of some top drawer performances. Second in the Premiership and top of the form table with five wins and a draw from their last six games translating to 16 points from the 18 available. Along the way, Rodgers’ men have earned well-deserved plaudits with the clinical despatching of Arsenal and Manchester United and notching up 19 goals. Title talk is now rife and one can feel the belief in team, the manager and the fans. The club is even the popular choice with the public. Does that make them the Housewives favourite…? Enough already! Before we all get carried away and start printing the “N-n-n-n 19” T-Shirts, let’s take a look at the current state of play at the top of the table.
With all the furore of the trophy heading to Anfield, the main contenders and let’s not forget still, favourites to come out on top, are Manchester City and they have two games in hand on second and third placed Liverpool and Arsenal respectively. Given their goal difference, they could, theoretically be on top of the pile if they win them. And, seeing as they welcome rock-bottom Fulham to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, there’s a good chance the theory could well turn into reality. I always find it odd how the papers and the fans alike seem to miss that reality. Yes, it’s fair to say Liverpool are in with a shout, but the odds remain squarely stacked against them and it would do us fans no harm to add a sprinkle of realism to the big bowl of optimism going round at the moment.
On the other hand concerning Liverpool’s opponents tomorrow, since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came through the doors at Cardiff City FC on 2nd January this year, the side has won only two of the ten games played. The hefty concession of 20 goals en route does not bode well for them either. One has to wonder what made Solskjaer take the hotseat offered by controversial owner Vincent Tan. Let’s face it, following a successful spell as Manager of the Manchester Utd. reserve team – beating the Liverpool reserve side to the Lancashire Senior Trophy in the 2007/8 season. Then, going on to manage Molde FK and winning back to back Tippeligaen championships, you’d have thought he’d sit tight and wait for a perhaps, more “reputable” side to approach him. Arguably, the Bluebirds’ Managerial seat is somewhat more of a poisoned chalice. Being realistic, that’s the closest they have to a cup this season.
Cardiff’s two wins have come against Fulham and Norwich but that hasn’t stopped them being firmly rooted second from bottom in the Premiership. Thus a seven point return from a possible 30 will likely only guarantee 41 year-old Solskjaer Championship football come August. It’s quite likely that he’d have had more joy taking over another side. He clearly has some potential but as a replacement for the dearly departed Malky Mackay, I’m not sure he’s improved the team if at all. You could argue that Mackay certainly had a better win ratio over 10 games winning three and picking up three draws along the way. Not exactly the record of world beaters, but the Baby-faced Assassin’s tenure has coupled with a steady decline.
I really can’t see where Cardiff’s threat can come from tomorrow. The Independent made a “head-to-head” this afternoon between Cardiff’s Frazier Campbell and Liverpool’s very own Daniel Sturridge. Is there any point? I was struggling for what to write after such an eventful weekend and clearly, I’m not the only one. If we look at Campbell’s season stats, we see five goals from 24 appearances, compared to Sturridge’s 18 from 19. In old money, that’s a 95% chance of scoring during a game. Compare that to Campbell’s 20% and you can see where the smart money lies.
As you know, I don’t make predictions, however, I’d suggest a healthy win for the visitors tomorrow, by a two or three goal margin. Football is a funny old game as someone used to say, so with that in mind, let’s hope we still have something to smile about come 5pm tomorrow.
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