Simon Mignolet is set to return to the Liverpool goal for the visit of Swansea City to Anfield on Monday night. Having been an ever-present in the Premier League since his transfer from Sunderland in the summer of 2013, the Belgium international’s disappointing performances saw him dropped for the clash with Manchester United earlier this month, as well as the subsequent three fixtures. However, a thigh injury for his replacement Brad Jones gave him the chance to come on from the bench in a 1-0 win over Burnley on Boxing Day and means he is expected to start Liverpool’s final match of 2014.
Mignolet paid the price for Liverpool’s continued defensive problems this season, with his authority over his penalty area often being called into question. Yet the 26-year-old insists that he has nothing to prove and that he will return to the side stronger.
“It is always difficult to accept losing your place at first, but then you have time to reflect on it,” he said, according to Liverpool’s official website.
“I know what I have to work on and if you are a 26-year-old goalkeeper, everything in your game can still be improved. I will be working hard every day and looking forward to the next game. I don't feel like I have to prove anything. The only thing I have to do is work hard in every game and do my best. All I can do is show on the pitch what I am capable of.”
As well as bringing on Mignolet, manager Brendan Rodgers also introduced summer signing Emre Can, predominantly a midfielder, in place of Kolo Toure as one of the three center-backs against Burnley. And Rodgers has been full of praise for the Germany Under-21 international, suggesting he may feature from the start in the role on Monday.
The win at Turf Moor, combined with dropped points for many of the teams above them on Sunday, means that, despite sitting in a disappointing 10th place in the Premier League, a victory over Rodgers’ former club Swansea would leave them just five points off a place in the top four.
Swansea go into the game two points better off than their opponents, having recorded back-to-back 1-0 victories over Hull City and Aston Villa. It has been an impressive start to Garry Monk’s first full season in charge, but the Swansea boss has had some stern words for former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. The £5 million signing, who has scored in both league matches so far against his former club, received his seventh booking of the season against Villa on Boxing Day, with Monk insisting that the 22-year-old improve that aspect of his game.
“I have spoken to him a number of times,” he said, reports BBC Sport. “We can't afford silly bookings and it cost him being on the pitch against Villa because any slight mistimed tackle could have been a red card. “Jonjo has to wise up because that yellow card came from laziness and he has to be better than that.”
Monk is unlikely to be able to call upon Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero due to a hamstring injury, although midfielder Leon Britton could return. Both managers could rotate their sides, however, in the midst of a hectic run of fixtures that will also see a full round of Premier League fixtures on New Year’s Day.
Prediction: The extra day’s rest in comparison to the rest of the Premier League teams who played on Boxing Day is likely to be much appreciated. Still, the quick turnaround in matches at this time of year often makes the contests more a war of attrition than a duel of ability. Despite their good form, Swansea have been significantly less impressive away from home this season and have lost on their last three visits to Anfield. A draw should suit the Welsh visitors and, with Liverpool still defensively vulnerable and potentially lacking the energy to produce the required intensity going forward, they could well get it.
Liverpool 1-1 Swansea City
Kickoff time: 3 p.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra