Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Cardiff City

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  • The last meeting between these two sides was the Carling Cup final of 2012 when Liverpool won on penalties after a 2-2 draw at Wembley.
  • These two teams have not met in the league since December 19th 1959 when Cardiff won 4-0 at Anfield.
  • Luis Suarez has scored 27 goals in 25 Premier League games in 2013.

Things get started bright and early on Saturday with a match of great consequence when Liverpool hosts Cardiff City at Anfield (7:45am ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

With a victory, Liverpool will climb to the top of the Premier League table where they will remain until the outcome of the London derby between Arsenal and Chelsea on Monday.

For Cardiff, losing this match could mean curtains for manager Malky Mackay, who suffered the wrath of owner Vincent Tan this past week after saying he would like to purchase a few new players in the January transfer window. Tan reacted furiously, claiming Mackay would not be given “a single penny” and raising the likelihood that one unfortunate result is all the Malaysian billionaire needs to sack the Scottish manager.

Liverpool have recovered well since their shock 1-3 loss to Hull City on December 1st. Since then the Reds have bullied their opponents (Norwich, West Ham, Tottenham) scoring 14 goals in three games while conceding only twice.

With Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard out with injuries, Luis Suarez has been on a torrid scoring pace notching eight goals over three matches. Left-back Jon Flanagan has been sensational while deputizing for Jose Enrique while Jordan Henderson looks to fast be blossoming into a dominant midfielder.

Cardiff enter the match 15th in the table, four points above the relegation zone. Last weekend’s 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion ended their five-match winless run in the league that included three straight matches without a goal.

While the managerial situation remains on high drama, the Bluebirds come into Saturday’s game a healthy squad, with only Craig Bellamy facing a late fitness test to recover from a knee injury. If they’re to put up a fight against Liverpool, Cardiff needs their strikers to step up. Having scored against Manchester City and Manchester United, Fraizer Campbell loves a big game and the onus will be on he and players like Jordon Mutch and Peter Odemwingie to step things up on the offensive end.

What They’re Saying

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “The squad we have at the moment is still relatively small, we have got a few players out. But I’ll always look from within, like I have done whenever we have had injuries, when young Jon Flanagan came into the team or Raheem Sterling came into the team. There’s very much a togetherness here, and that’s one of the key facets of the season so far.”

Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay: “It’s a job only three-quarters done as far as I am concerned – making Cardiff a sustainable Premier League team. I have a great group of players who are competing at this level and enjoying this level. The fans are enjoying being at this level and my duty is to make sure we continue to do that.”

Prediction

With Mackay on the stumbling block, expect the Bluebirds to play their hearts out for their manager. I think this match will be closer that one might expect at first glance but in the end this Suarez-led Liverpool squad won’t be denied.

Report: Toronto to send Giovinco to Tigres for Valencia, cash

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An Mexican site reports that Tigres UANL is ready to send Enner Valencia and cash to Toronto FC to land Sebastian Giovinco.

Normally that’s seem a bit wild for TFC to send their perennial MLS MVP candidate packing, but the club has been hesitant to meet Giovinco’s terms on a new contract.

[ MORE: PL Manager Power Rankings ]

And Valencia is nearly three years younger and a bit bigger than Giovinco.

Valencia scored in bunches for Tigres after arriving from West Ham, scoring nine goals with an assist in 16 Apertura matches including three multi-goal games. He then saw his numbers dip to two goals and three assists in 11 Clausura appearances.

Giovinco, meanwhile, has six goals and six assists in 15 matches between MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League.

It would be a significant risk for TFC, though the idea of pairing up Enner Valencia and Jozy Altidore is a physical nightmare for MLS defenses.

Whoops! Unai Emery puts up Arsenal message on web site

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Arsenal’s next manager is very close to being officially Unai Emery.

That is unless, the Gunners’ brass has its mind changed by his sloppy web savvy.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Emery — or his people, or hackers — mistakenly put up a graphic featuring the Spanish coach, the Arsenal logo, and the phrase “Proud to be a part of the Arsenal family” before taking it down in short order.

Emery is expected to take over for Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium this summer. Something tells us we’ll have an announcement on Wednesday or even later tonight…

State TV: Ghana president orders arrest of FIFA executive

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday ordered police to arrest football federation head Kwesi Nyantakyi, a member of the powerful FIFA Council, over allegations of fraud.

Akufo-Addo’s order was announced by the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Abu Jinapor, deputy chief of staff at the president’s office, said the order for Nyantakyi to be arrested and investigated related to an undercover documentary that purports to show the football official asking businessmen for money in return for access to the president and other senior government officials.

“It was a clear case of defrauding by false pretense,” Jinapor said, adding that Akufo-Addo’s order came after he watched excerpts from the documentary, which has not yet been broadcast.

Nyantakyi is president of the Ghana Football Association, a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, and has been a member of the ruling FIFA Council since 2016. He was the FIFA official chosen to oversee the football competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ghanaian media reported that Nyantakyi was not in Ghana at the time of the president’s order but was returning home.

Nyantakyi has been accused of improper behavior before when a British media investigation just before the 2014 World Cup claimed he had been willing to allow the Ghana national team to play in games that could be fixed by others. He denied the allegation.

Premier League managerial power rankings

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There’s a new sheriff at West Ham United, and it’s no small-time boss.

Former Premier League champion manager Manuel Pellegrini is taking over the London side, which had us wondering how high he’d move up the acclaim ladder upon hiring (as of post time).

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

With the 20th spot still open — will it be Fulham or Aston Villa — the Arsenal and Everton jobs vacant for now, and both Neil Warnock and Nuno Espirito Santo yet to manage their clubs in the top flight, we rank the power status of the 15 other active Premier League bosses.

15. Javi Gracia, Watford — Manager don’t usually last long at Vicarage Road, and Gracia doesn’t have a record for sticking around clubs for too long himself.

14. Mark Hughes, Southampton — Saints stayed in the Premier League, and Hughes deserves credit for pushing the buttons on a talented squad.

13. Claude Puel, Leicester City — A disappointing finish to his season keeps Leicester outside the Europa League, and so he has a bit more to prove after an impressive reclamation job at the King Power Stadium.

12. David Wagner, Huddersfield Town — Keeping Town in the Premier League was impressive, but we’re not sure how much we learned about the long-term prognosis of Jurgen Klopp‘s best pal.

11. Chris Hughton, Brighton and Hove Albion — He’d led several clubs to Premier League promotion, and coaxed fine seasons out of what appeared to be a subpar defense at season’s open.

10. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth — One of the brightest young managerial minds, can he take the next step on the South Coast?

9. Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace — What he did upon inheriting and then overseeing one of the worst starts in Premier League history was nothing short of brilliant. Clearly he hasn’t stopped learning unlike many other PL “retreads.”

8. Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham — What will a few years outside the Premier League, if anything, have done to the one-time Man City leader. Don’t forget: The season City won the PL season, he coaxed 20-plus goal campaigns in all competitions from Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, and Yaya Toure.

7. Antonio Conte, Chelsea — Tactically and experience-wise, he’s so much higher on the list. Regardless of the mess at Chelsea, better was needed this season.

6. Sean Dyche, Burnley — Guiding tiny Burnley to the Europa League is as impressive a feat as any outside of what Guardiola did this year and Claudio Ranieri did at Leicester City.

— BONUS — 6b. Unai Emery, if hired at Arsenal —

5. Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United — Considering his resume, it shouldn’t be as surprising that he kept United up despite his owner refusing to green-light a real answer at center forward. Worked career years out of Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey.

4. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool — The Champions League final says something, especially in a year he sold Philippe Coutinho, but his team still lacks the consistency of the three men in front of him.

3. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur — Spurs have smartly spent and kept their stars around, but their financial outlay arguably should not have them consistently finishing ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal.

2. Jose Mourinho, Manchester United — Still a defensive marvel, still a genius, still somewhat hilarious… but we all know who No. 1 is…

  1. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City