January. New month, new year, same season. And that’s pleasing, because it’s a season that currently we’d like to enjoy for ever and ever and ever. The calendar may have flipped over but it’s the same creative, solid, easy-on-the-eye Hull City AFC that we will see, hopefully, for as long as possible through the early months.
Beginning 2014 with a trip to Liverpool is somewhat daunting, but also fascinating. And it’s fascinating for fans of other clubs and neutrals in general. City, having frightened Manchester United to death and then actually inflicted something close to a footballing death on Fulham, go to Anfield in form and favour. Liverpool, at their most watchable since 1988, reeling from two defeats to Premier League title rivals, entertain the Tigers with something to prove.
We all know that if the home side turn up then it’s unlikely City will prevail. Luis Suarez was poor at the KC a month ago, though much of his disappearance during that game can be accredited to Alex Bruce’s aceness as the Uruguayan’s own poverty. But we know that if he decides he feels like it against City, it’ll be some task to nullify him. And though he gets the attention, there are others at Liverpool who do hellishly good stuff when the mood dictates. Raheem Sterling is currently on a bit of form, for example. And the easy to criticise Steven Gerrard is set to return from injury having scored four Premier League goals against City already.
Much will depend on what Steve Bruce decides to do with the team. He changed personnel and formation after the Boxing Day defeat to the champions, out of necessity, and City responded with the tonking of Fulham. His job may be made easier by the fact that neither his heir nor David Meyler, two who had to miss out against Fulham with knocks, are likely to be fit. Robbie Brady is still struggling too with the groin issue apparently continuing after his somewhat early return from hernia surgery.
And, assuming Bruce thinks two centre backs – of quality and distinction, of course; they are Messrs Davies and Chester, after all – can look after the Suarez threat, then sticking to the 4-4-1-1 formation, with the same XI within, might be the best thing to do. Certainly new starters like George Boyd and Liam Rosenior deserve another go after the way they contributed to the shellacking of Fulham; indeed, the only fit player who thinks he may stand a chance of taking a starting place is Matt Fryatt, though as his return to action rises a notch, he may be best suited to a full 90 minutes against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will make at least two changes to his team because of injuries sustained at Chelsea to Joe Allen and Mamadou Sakho, though the return of Gerrard will be of some compensation. Daniel Sturridge is still out.
City have never won at Anfield – that’s a), and b) is that City have never won a Premier League game in the month of January. So it doesn’t look obviously dead on for the Tigers to pick up three points to commence 2014, and with Chelsea visiting the KC in the subsequent Premier League game, we may have to steel ourselves for some brief famine to follow the feast. The bookies are all in Liverpool’s favour with this one, offering 3/10 on a home win. City’s chances of success are priced at 9/1, with 9/2 put on the draw. Given the brilliance of 2013 as a whole, it’d be of a surprise to everyone except us if we made those bookmakers look rather foolhardy, wouldn’t it?
Happy New Year. And c’mon City…