Cardiff City vs. Liverpool
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Kick off: 4PM
Liverpool’s quest for a first top-flight title since 1990 takes them to South Wales on Easter this afternoon as they face a Cardiff City side fighting for their Premier League lives.
With the prospect of a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona looming, Jurgen Klopp used his pre-match press conference to ensure that Liverpool remain focused on the tests that are coming up before that.
Neither are particularly glamorous, with a home game against rock-bottom Huddersfield Town following Sunday’s trip to Wales, but to supporters who have been pining for a top-flight title since 1990 they may just be even more important.
Any slip-up at this stage of the season is likely to be fatal to any title hopes, but the Reds have done a good job at avoiding those against bottom-half teams so far this season, winning 49 points from the 51 on offer in such matches so far.
Liverpool have also won each of their last nine league games against promoted teams, scoring 27 goals and conceding just three in the process, and another triumph this weekend would set a new club-record for such games.
Klopp will naturally be wary of both complacency and Cardiff’s need for victory too, although they go into the match off the back of five successive Premier League wins and eight in a row across all competitions – another would make it their best run since April 2014.
That run infamously came to an end at home to Chelsea – Steven Gerrard’s slip and all – but the Reds prevented the same fixture from derailing their title challenge this time around courtesy of a rousing 2-0 win in their most recent top-flight outing, enough to take them back to the top of the Premier League table.
Liverpool have already surpassed their final points tally from that 2013-14 campaign and only need a draw to equal their best-ever Premier League return with three games of the season still to go after this weekend.
However, the fact remains that things are still out of Klopp’s hands and his side could remarkably end the season with 97 points but still miss out on the title should Manchester City – who renew hostilities with Champions League conquerors Tottenham on Saturday – also record a perfect finale to the campaign.
Liverpool must wait and hope for a Man City slip-up, which on paper looks most likely to occur when they face Manchester United on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has suggested that he is fearful of a “battering” at the hands of Sunday’s opponents, but in private he may be much more optimistic about their chances of getting something from the game.
Any side battling against relegation can be a dangerous proposition, and Cardiff go into this afternoon off the back of perhaps their most significant result of the season.
Defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday would have left Cardiff eight points adrift of safety with four games of their season remaining and surely therefore facing the inevitability of an immediate return to the Championship.
However, a 2-0 win at the Amex instead saw them close the gap to two points, leaving hope of an Easter resurrection for a team which began the campaign as huge favourites to suffer relegation.
Cardiff possible XI: Etheridge, Peltier, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Bennett, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Mendez-Laing, Camarasa, Hoilett, Niasse.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane.