How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Cardiff City

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistMarch 20, 2014

How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Cardiff City

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    The Liverpool Express rumbles on, with the next stop Cardiff City.

    Following the stunning 3-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford which seems to have woken up everyone to the possibility that this Reds side might just claim the Premier League title, next comes a clash with a team who are far more concerned with the goings on at the other end of the table.

    Malky Mackay was still in charge of the team from the Welsh capital when they lost 3-1 at Anfield back in December, but keeping Cardiff in the Premier League is now the concern of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

    The Norwegian saw his team suffer a heartbreaking stoppage-time defeat back on Merseyside at Everton last weekend, a result which leaves them in the relegation zone and, due to their poor goal difference, four points from escaping it.

    They'll be battling for their lives on Saturday then, so how does Brendan Rodgers play it?

    Here is the XI that the Reds manager could pick:

Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet

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    Back-to-back clean sheets have suddenly seen talk of Liverpool's dodgy defence disappear, although in truth Simon Mignolet didn't really have much to do at Manchester United.

    He was far busier in the win at Southampton earlier in the month where he made a terrific stop to deny home forward Jay Rodriguez, and the Belgian will again be in high spirits as he heads for the club from the Welsh capital, for whom Jordon Mutch scored past him in that 3-1 game in December.

    As has always been the case with Liverpool this season, Mignolet knows that if he keeps a clean sheet then there is a very good chance that his team will win this game, and he'll be determined to do just that.

Defence: Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan

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    The latest in the long line of Jon Flanagan's impressive displays came on the left of Liverpool's defence in the win at Old Trafford, as he switched positions from the way that he and Glen Johnson had lined up in the Southampton win.

    Both could stay on those sides again here, with Johnson as crucial as ever in helping the Reds get on the front foot and attacking their opponents.

    The central defensive partnership of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel will have rediscovered some confidence following those back-to-back clean sheets. So, although Mamadou Sakho returned from injury to take up a place on the bench at Manchester United, the Frenchman will have to remain patient.

Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson

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    Joe Allen was mightily impressive last weekend, taking his lead from Jordan Henderson and buzzing all around the Manchester United midfielders to ensure that both Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick were left feeling dizzy by the end of the match.

    The Welshman wasn't afraid to get forward either, as shown with the run which forced Liverpool's crucial second penalty. Back in his homeland, the ex-Swansea midfielder will be eager to impress against his former club's rivals as he potentially earns a start ahead of Philippe Coutinho again.

    Henderson remains one of the first names in the teamsheet, whilst the very first one is arguably Steven Gerrard, who was at his imperious best at Old Trafford and is clearly enjoying his role in this largely youthful team.

Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge

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    Has the goalscoring baton been passed from Daniel Sturridge back to Luis Suarez? Perhaps.

    Having scored in eight successive Premier League games Sturridge has now failed to find the net in the last two, but Suarez has responded by firing in both of those games to end what had been a mini-goalscoring drought.

    From the position they are in now, Liverpool might well turn to Suarez to simply try and blast them over the finish line and towards Premier League glory.

    The Uruguayan scored twice in the victory over Cardiff in December, with the other goal scored by Raheem Sterling, who is set to start in his No. 10 role again after doing so at Old Trafford.

Ready in Reserve

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    Philippe Coutinho's poor display at Southampton was perhaps a signal that he is feeling a little tired as he comes to the end of his first full season in England. So maybe it is right to give the Brazilian something of a rest towards the end of the campaign.

    He was on the bench against Manchester United, and with Sunderland coming to Anfield on Wednesday then he might perhaps be overlooked again with a view toward that fixture.

    Should things be going well for the Reds in South Wales, then other key performers could be withdrawn towards the end of the clash, with Iago Aspas, Victor Moses and Lucas Leiva all ready to appear from the sidelines.

    All were on the bench at United in what was arguably Liverpool's strongest matchday squad of the season.

How They'll Line Up

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    So why would Rodgers want to change things from the win at Old Trafford? The answer is that he wouldn't.

    The Sunderland match might weigh on the manager's mind later on into this contest, however it is going for his side in South Wales. But he'll be determined to see his players kick on from their performance last week and deliver the kind of victory which will only further the confidence and belief within his squad.

    The main positional issue in this clash is likely to focus on when Raheem Sterling plays, but even if the Englishman starts from the central role he took up at Old Trafford or is seen drifting wider, then the link-up play with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge is likely to be as important as ever.

    If those three can click, then the three points should be returning to Merseyside with them.