At risk of going six games without a win for the first time under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool make the journey to Elland Road to lock horns with Leeds United on Monday night.
Javi Gracia’s men were demolished 5-1 by Crystal Palace in their most recent fixture, while the Reds came from two goals down to hold Arsenal to a 2-2 draw at Anfield.
An early Patrick Bamford effort would not be a sign of things to come for Leeds when Palace paid a visit to Elland Road last weekend, as Gracia’s side conceded just before the break to a Marc Guehi effort, and the floodgates opened thereafter for Roy Hodgson’s goal-happy Eagles.
A merciless second-half onslaught saw Jordan Ayew net twice alongside efforts from Eberechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard, and Michael Olise has been a prominent figure in Whites’ nightmares, unlocking Gracia’s permeable defence with ease to register three assists from open play in one game – the youngest in Premier League history to do so.
With none of Southampton, Leicester City or Everton winning on Saturday, Leeds retain a narrow buffer over the relegation places in 16th spot, albeit just two points clear of Nottingham Forest, who can leapfrog them with a shock triumph over Manchester United on Sunday.
Defeat to the Eagles was only Leeds’ second loss in their last five top-flight matches – and just a fifth defeat of the season at home – but the Whites’ rearguard have shipped at least two goals in four of those matches and possess the joint-second leakiest defence in the division, level with Nottingham Forest on 54 goals conceded and only better off than Bournemouth’s 57.
While acknowledging the dreadful manner of his side’s capitulation against Palace, Gracia insisted that his Leeds side can still beat “anyone” on their day, and backing up those bold comments with an immediate response against Liverpool would go some way to appeasing Elland Road faithful.
Only the acrobatic excellence of Aaron Ramsdale denied Liverpool all three points in last weekend’s pulsating stalemate with Arsenal, who were on course to end their Anfield curse thanks to strikes from Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus in the early exchanges.
It is fair to say that neither Liverpool nor the crowd had woken up before the final 10 minutes of the first half, but Mohamed Salah’s effort gave the Reds a glimmer of hope before Arsenal’s long-time nemesis Roberto Firmino headed home a late and thoroughly deserved equaliser.
During a relentless period of second-half pressure from the Reds, Salah missed a penalty and saw a deflected effort somehow kept out by the fingertips of Ramsdale, who also denied Ibrahima Konate at the back post with seconds remaining, and Klopp was left to rue what could have been only an hour after watching the Gunners carve his side open at will.
Liverpool enter Monday’s battle still entrenched in eighth place in the rankings, and with Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa both winning on Saturday, the Reds cannot leapfrog any of their fellow continental challengers no matter what transpires on Monday.
While there were plenty of positives to take from their second-half display versus Arsenal, Klopp’s side have now failed to win any of their last five games – not since the Hodgson days of 2010 have they endured a longer streak without victory – and they still have just the three away wins to their name in the current Premier League season.
Furthermore, Liverpool’s sole home defeat in the league this term came against Leeds in dramatic fashion in October, but the Whites have failed to beat the Reds at Elland Road in the Premier League since 2000-01, where Mark Viduka single-handedly crushed the Merseyside club with four goals in a 4-3 spectacular.
Neither Stuart Dallas nor Tyler Adams will be in contention to return from thigh injuries for Leeds just yet, but Maximilian Wober has trained this week and will be given every chance to prove his fitness.
Gracia also revealed that some unnamed members of his squad were nursing physical problems, and while he refused to give any specific details away, changes should be in the offing after last weekend’s disaster class.
Wilfried Gnonto can surely look forward to a recall to the forward line, while Rasmus Kristensen, Liam Cooper and Rodrigo are also among the realistic options for change for Gracia.
Over at Anfield, Klopp revealed fresh concerns for Alisson Becker and Ibrahima Konate – who have both missed a couple of training sessions this week – but both integral defensive cogs should be put through their paces over the weekend and are expected to be fine for the match.
Monday’s game will also mark the long-awaited return of Luis Diaz from a serious knee injury – a spot on the bench awaits the Colombian – but all of Stefan Bajcetic (adductor), Naby Keita (muscle) and Calvin Ramsay (knee) are confined to the medical room.
Firmino’s crucial contribution against Arsenal is unlikely to be enough for a starting berth, but Thiago Alcantara and Darwin Nunez are primed to displace Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota respectively.
Andy Robertson will also start after clearing the air with official Constantine Hatzidakis over an alleged elbow in last Sunday’s draw – the FA have deemed that no action is necessary against Hatzidakis, and Robertson has accepted an apology.
Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Cooper, Firpo; McKennie, Roca; Harrison, Rodrigo, Gnonto; Bamford
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Gakpo, Nunez