With Manchester City’s 1-0 win against Tottenham, Liverpool must now win against Cardiff to keep pace.
The Reds will be entering this match full of confidence after progressing to a second straight Champions League semi-final with a 4-1 win in Portugal over Porto midweek while also coming off a great 2-0 win over Chelsea last time out in the league.
But their opponents are also ending into the game full of confidence and need points on the board. Cardiff’s 2-0 win over Brighton earlier this week puts them in pole position to stay up.
With the Welsh side desperate to stay up and riding the high of their win against Brighton this won’t be as easy as it may seem for Liverpool, despite the totally opposite places both sides sit in the table.
Both sides are coming into this game with confidence and need to pick up points for their respective battles at both ends of the table which should make for an intriguing match up.
Cardiff’s recent win against Brighton has kept their survival hopes alive. Brighton are just 2 points ahead but do have a game in hand, although their remaining games are against very tough opponents in Wolves, Spurs, Newcastle, Arsenal and Manchester City, while Cardiff have Liverpool, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Manchester United. It’ll come down to the wire but do you think Cardiff will stay up?
I think so. I think that win at Brighton was huge. They’ve got a tougher run in and their crowd are on their backs. I’d be very surprised if they won another game this season. We’ve got two winnable games against Fulham and Palace, which I think will be enough.
A lot was made of Cardiff’s chances to stay up at the beginning of the season. Whether they avoid the drop or not what are your thought on Cardiff’s first Premier League season since 2013/14?
An unbelievable season. Everyone wrote us off before a ball was kicked – many saying we would beat Derby’s lowest ever points total – but we’ve proved them wrong. We know we don’t have the quality of some other sides but we’ve got togetherness and spirit. When you consider what the club has been through this season (the Emiliano Sala tragedy) I think everyone deserves credit, no matter what happens.
Neil Warnock has been painted as this out of touch old man who can’t cut it in the big leagues. What are your thoughts on the gaffer, especially if he manages to keep you up against all the odds?
He’s Cardiff’s greatest ever manager, there’s little doubt about that for me. He joined at a time when things were in a horrid state on and off the field. We were looking like we’d be relegated from the Championship and there was a massive divide between the club and the fans. Warnock has transformed the club on and off the field.
I also think that his portrayal as out of touch old man is out of order. He’s completely in touch with the fans and knows what we value. He’s also more tactically astute than some give him credit for. We may not play the most attractive football, but Warnock is very reactive in his tactics and is constantly changing how we set up depending on how who we play.
If Cardiff do stay up is there a main reason or cause to this success, especially considering the fact that they were a shoo-in to go down not even a few weeks ago?
I’d say the spirit and fight around the club. On the pitch, every player has given their all and fought for every single point. Off the pitch, the fans haven’t got on the team’s back once and we’ve all remained united. We were criticised for not spending much and having a poor quality squad but just look at Fulham. Spending a lot of money isn’t a recipe for instant success.
What is the mood amongst the fans heading into this match and the run-in?
We’re excited. That win against Brighton was massive and everyone is optimistic. We’re all Wolves fans on Saturday!
Looking forward to the actual game now what is Cardiff’s biggest strength and weakness?
Our strength lies in the air, it’s fair to say. We’re dangerous in both boxes. Captain Sean Morrison is a giant in the air and finally got his first goal of the season.
Our weakness remains on the ball, I think. We struggle to build play and keep possession and give the ball away a lot.
Who has been the sides best player so far this season and who has been the worse or most disappointing?
There’s been a few stand out players this year. Neil Etheridge has been superb, especially when you consider his rise from almost giving up on football as a free agent to Premier League ‘keeper. Sol Bamba has been immense, but he’s out for the rest of the season. Victor Camarasa oozes quality and is our best player by a long distance. He’s got the quality to do something special so I’d watch out for him getting the ball out of his feet on the edge of the box.
Nobody has been too disappointing, I’d say. Sean Morrison and Joe Ralls struggled to adjust to the pace of the Premier League in the first few months of the season, but post-Christmas they have really stepped up. Kenneth Zohore hasn’t got the goals we’d have wanted this year but hasn’t played as much as he would’ve wanted.
What must Cardiff do to get a result on Sunday?
Stop Liverpool scoring! In all seriousness, any success we get depends on frustrating Liverpool. We know we’ll have to defend for our lives and rely on some pace on the counter attack if we’re going to grab a goal. Oumar Niasse will be important to how we break out, but he’ll have a tough day against Virgil Van Dijk.
What is your biggest worry heading into the game?
Getting walked over! We’re on a high after that Brighton result and while we don’t expect to get anything out of Liverpool I worry a walkover would knock our confidence.
How do you rate this Liverpool side?
They’re clearly exceptional. Whether they win the league or not, Klopp deserves immense credit for how he has transformed this Liverpool side. Van Dijk and Alisson have been great signings and I’m sure it’s a matter of time before this side wins a league title, whether it’s this season or not.
Which Liverpool player has impressed you the most this season?
Van Dijk. He’s a brilliant player and, in my opinion, the best centre-back in the world.
How do you see Warnock lining up his side?
He’s not got too many options, to be honest with you. If Bamba was fit, I’d see us going for a 5-3-2, but with just two fit centre-halves we’ll go with four at the back. I think it’ll be a 4-5-1, lined up as follows: Etheridge; Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Bennett; Gunnarsson, Ralls, Camarasa, Hoilett, Mendez-Laing; Niasse.
How do you see the match playing out?
I think we might frustrate Liverpool for the first 25-30 mins and may even grab the lead, but the quality will tell. I’ll go with a 2-1 win for Liverpool.