The ping-pong of ratcheting up the pressure in the Premier League title race is back upon Liverpool’s shoulders as the Reds look to take care of business Friday against relegated Huddersfield Town at Anfield.
Liverpool (27-7-1) watched Manchester City play their match in hand Wednesday, and that 2-0 derby victory at Old Trafford versus eternal rivals United dropped Jurgen Klopp’s club two points behind City with three matches to play. It marked the 10th time since March 10 one side has overtaken the other for the top spot in the table, with neither titan ceding any ground in a Premier League title race for the ages.
Desperate to win their first Premier League title and first top-flight title since capturing the First Division in 1990, Liverpool are looking for a 10th straight win in all competitions and carry an 18-match unbeaten run (13-5-0) into this contest. This contest figures to be the easiest of the three remaining league matches for the Reds, who also begin their Champions League semifinal tie versus Barcelona on Wednesday at the Nou Camp.
“Hopefully we’ve got six games left,” right back Trent Alexander-Arnold told the club’s official website, referring to a hopeful return to the Champions League final for a second straight year. “It doesn’t sound too much but when you’re putting everything into it you need players to come in and out. It’s good to be able to bring different players in.
“Every game you want to play and it’s good when the manager has that faith and trust in you to play. We have to recover as soon as possible because we know we’ve got a tough run of fixtures to go. We’re excited.”
Liverpool put forth a disciplined effort in winning 2-0 at relegation-threatened Cardiff City last weekend. Georginio Wijnaldum broke the scoreless deadlock in the 57th minute by volleying Alexander-Arnold’s corner kick, and James Milner secured the three points with a penalty on 81 minutes after Mohamed Salah was floored by Bluebirds defender Sean Morrison.
It was Alexander-Arnold’s eighth assist in league play, with he and fellow wide back Andrew Robertson accounting for 18 helpers on Liverpool’s 72 goals in the run of play on the season. Klopp gave full credit to his players on the first goal, making in-match adjustments to Cardiff City’s defending tendencies to create the space that led to Wijnaldum being unmarked for his goal.
“We trained for it, but the ball was coming high in the first half,” Wijnaldum told Sky Sports. “I was so free in the first half, I told Henderson to tell Trent to put a low ball in, I got onto it and it was a good finish.”
Klopp expects midfielder Fabinho to be available for selection after he had to be subbed off in the 75th minute – just four minutes after his entry into the match following a clash of heads with Cardiff’s Kenneth Zohore. It is unknown if centre back Dejan Lovren will be available for this match after missing the last three due to illness, but Joel Matip has deputised efficiently as his replacement, and Klopp also has Joe Gomez as a potential option to partner with Virgil Van Dijk in the spine of the back four.
Liverpool have recorded a Premier League-best 18 shutouts and conceded a league-low 20 goals but still trail City on goal difference since the reigning champions have notched 10 more goals than the Reds (89-79).
Huddersfield Town (3-5-27) all are but assured to be at the foot of the table come next month as they are nine points adrift of 19th-place Fulham with three matches remaining and will be heading back to the Championship after a two-season run in the top flight. The Terriers have lost seven on the bounce and have dropped 21 of 23 (1-1-21) across all competitions after a 2-1 home defeat to Watford last weekend.
Karlan Grant grabbed a stoppage-time consolation goal for Town, who had conceded a brace to Gerard Deulofeu on either side of halftime. Jan Siewert’s side have given up two or more goals in their last six defeats, shipping 18 goals with only five in reply.
“Unfortunately after five minutes we were directly on the back foot, but still there were very positive things for me to see today,” Siewert told HTTV. “The result of course is very painful, but Watford is a good and organised team and we really could’ve hurt them today.
“I’m proud of how the lads tried to be on the front foot in my system.”
With an eye on the Championship next season, Siewert played a 4-3-3 formation against Watford, though the idea of taking the match to Liverpool in such a fashion sounds like a recipe for disaster. Huddersfield Town do have three matches to score the one goal that will allow them to avoid matching the 2007-08 Derby County side for fewest Premier League goals in a season with 20.
Salah will match that total with his next goal, and the Egypt international’s cool finish on a pass from Xherdan Shaqiri in the 24th minute separated the sides in the reverse fixture on Oct. 20. Huddersfield did challenge the Reds, with Jonathan Hogg thumping the woodwork and Alex Pritchard having a goal chalked off for offsides after Salah’s marker.
Liverpool have won all three Premier League matches between the sides and are unbeaten in their last 13 (10-3-0) versus Huddersfield Town since a 1-0 loss in 1959. Town have not won at Anfield since 1956.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 4, Huddersfield Town 0.
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(Georginio Wijnaldum photo courtesy Liverpool FC official Twitter account)