Liverpool head into Saturday’s Premier League clash with Cardiff City boosted by star man Luis Suarez signing a new long-term contract. Since being prevented from leaving over the summer and sitting out the first five matches of the Premier League season through suspension, Suarez has returned in sensational form.
Having scored 17 goals in just 11 league outings, he has helped Liverpool to second played in the table. A win over Cardiff would put them, temporarily at least, on top, with first-placed Arsenal set to meet third-placed Chelsea on Monday. Being Christmas No. 1 is now very much a realistic proposition and one that even the most diehard Liverpool fan will have struggled to believe was realistic at the start of the campaign.
Liverpool come into the contest on the back of a 5-0 drubbing of Tottenham, a performance that manager Brendan Rodgers believes epitomized his vision for the team.
"If any game defines what we're trying to do here in terms of our football, it was against Tottenham where the team was outstanding in every element," he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. "We feel that we're improving. That's what we have been looking to do all the way along on the journey here.
"I've always been concerned about the performance, because I know that when we perform well, the results will follow. Right the way through the club it's been brilliant. It was a statement of how we've been working over the last 18 months or so. We're looking to play the game in a different way and with different ideas of how to play our football, but always with the mentality and the will and determination to win.”
While all seems to be heading in the right direction for Liverpool, both on and off the pitch, the same cannot be said for their next opponents. Owner Vincent Tan has been credited for bankrolling Cardiff into the top flight, but his decision-making has become increasingly troubling. Initially there was the changing the color of the team’s home shirts, before recently to trying to replace the club’s head of recruitment Ian Moody with a friend of Tan’s son with no apparent experience in the game who had previously been at Cardiff on work experience.
Since then the job of manager Malky Mackay has been severely undermined and on Thursday it emerged he had been sent an e-mail by Tan, reportedly stating in blunt terms, “resign or be sacked.” While Mackay did not appear for the pre-march press conference he is, at the time of writing, still expected to be in charge for the trip to Anfield.
The furor has quelled the optimism from last week’s victory over West Brom, which ended a five-match winless streak and lifted Cardiff up to 15th in the Premier League table. After a solid start to the campaign, it is hard to imagine the events of recent days aiding the Welsh club’s attempt to ensure their Premier League stay is longer than a single season.
Cardiff will give a late fitness test to Craig Bellamy to see if the forward is available to face his former club. Liverpool will again be without Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique.
Where to watch: The Premier League match will kick off at 7.45 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.