Liverpool host Sheffield United in the opening game of the new year, looking to continue as they mean to go on at the summit of the Premier League.
Liverpool vs. Sheffield United
Thursday, January 2, 2020 – 8pm (GMT)
Referee: Paul Tierney
The Reds brought a memorable 2019 to a close with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Wolves, a result which stretched Liverpool’s unbeaten streak in the topflight to 36.
While the encounter was marred by the intervention of VAR, Sadio Mane’s 10th goal of the campaign saw Jurgen Klopp’s side notch their 18th win of the season to maintain a commanding 13 point lead at the summit.
And with the new year now upon us, Liverpool are swiftly back in action against a Sheffield United side who have fallen to defeat just once on the road in the Premier League this term – against Man City last time out.
Chris Wilder’s side have been the surprise packet so far this season, taking points off the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United to see them currently placed eighth in the table.
Liverpool, however, will enter the clash as heavy favourites and their recent history with newly-promoted sides makes for good reading, with the Reds winning all 11 home games under Klopp with an aggregate score of 33-4.
It will no doubt prove to be a tough evening, but Liverpool should have enough firepower to kick off 2020 in the same way they ended 2019.
The victory over Wolves, thankfully, presented no new injury concerns for Klopp whose side will have had four days to rest and recover ahead of the Blades’ visit.
Xherdan Shaqiri, however, remains sidelined after picking up a “slight muscle strain” in his hamstring prior to the game last time out.
And while the remaining injured quartet are making “good” progress on their respective injuries, the Reds will still be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren – all of whom are expected to return to training this month in view of a return to first-team action in February.
The boss surprised many with his selection against Wolves, making just one change from the team who overcame Leicester on Boxing Day – and he could be tempted to follow a similar line of thought with the FA Cup tie with Everton on the horizon as options remain limited.
Klopp spoke of having just “13 outfield players” plus the “younger boys” ahead of the encounter as while Takumi Minamino is now officially a Liverpool player, he will have to wait until Sunday to be provided with the chance to make his debut due to Premier League regulations.
Naby Keita could return to the fold after starting from the bench against Wolves, with Adam Lallana the most likely to drop out despite impressing in what was just his third league start of the season.
Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, could find himself given a breather after starting the last seven games in all competitions, where Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner could both start in the middle of the park – or the latter in place of Andy Robertson at left-back.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are all fit and available, but Klopp could also turn to Divock Origi for the first time from the off in the league since the 5-2 win over Everton.
For Sheffield United, Wilder possesses a relatively clean bill of health and will make a late decision over the availability of midfielder John Lundstram.
Last 5 at home to Sheffield United (All Competitions)
Won 4-0 – February 2007 (Fowler x2, Hyypia, Gerrard)
Won 2-0 – January 2003 (Diouf, Owen)
Lost 2-1 – April 1994 (Rush; Flo x2)
Won 3-0 – November 1992 (McManaman x2, Marsh)
Won 2-1 – August 1992 (Walters, Stewart; Deane)
Did You Know?
The Reds ended 2019 at Anfield in the Premier League having scored in every single game, a run which ensured Klopp’s men stretched their unbeaten record at home to 50 league matches – winning 40 and drawing 10.
The Blades will be looking for an upset and they will have to attempt to deny the Reds landing on the scoresheet first as Liverpool have won each of their last 37 games when they have opened the scoring.
It is a remarkable stat and one which the Reds will be eager to continue long into 2020.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 1-0 vs. Wolves
Won 4-0 vs. Leicester
Won 1-0 vs. Flamengo
Won 2-1 vs. Monterrey
Lost 5-0 vs. Aston Villa
Sheffield United – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 2-0 vs. Man City
Drew 1-1 vs. Watford
Won 1-0 vs. Brighton
Won 2-0 vs. Aston Villa
Won 2-1 vs. Norwich
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the boss was under no illusions that the encounter will be smooth sailing as the Blades have proven to be a troubling prospect for all teams in the league so far.
“Massively [impressed]. Last year when Chris Wilder was named Manager of the Year I thought Pep Guardiola won four titles, so what happened there?
“I didn’t watch a lot of Championships last season. But now I see why [he was given the award].
“He’s doing an incredible job there. A really good, organised team and caused every team a problem.
“We have to fight, they have an interesting setup and gameplan.”
TV & Liveblog Info
Liverpool’s first match of 2020 vs. Sheffield United will be shown live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate from 7pm (GMT), with kickoff set for 8pm.
Chris Williams will be at the helm for This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog, keeping you entertained and up to date on all the action, starting from 7.15pm.