Good afternoon all! In a weekend that is being dominated by FA Cup football, one Premier League bout has managed to sneak its way through in the form of Liverpool vs. Swansea City
This fixture was originally scheduled for February 24, but as Swansea are due to face Bradford City in the League Cup final, the match at Anfield has been rearranged to this afternoon.
So, now that we all know why we're here, let's delve deeper into today's match-up. This is the third time that these two sides will come together this season - a goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium came earlier on in the league, while Swansea defeated the Reds 3-1 in the League Cup.
Right, now for the all-important team news, and there's an interesting change coming from the home side...
Liverpool starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Enrique, Agger, Carragher; Lucas, Gerrard, Coutinho, Downing; Sturridge, Suarez
Liverpool bench: Gulacsi, Skrtel, Henderson, Shelvey, Sterling, Allen, Borini
As you can see, Philippe Coutinho gets his starting debut for the Merseyside club since joining from Inter Milan in the final week of the January transfer window. There are high hopes for this youngster, but it remains to be seen how the Brazilian will cope with the fierceness of the Premier League.
Jordan Henderson is the man to lose out as he is dropped to the bench following Coutinho's inclusion, while Daniel Sturridge returns from a thigh problem to start up front for the Reds.
The Swansea team news has now just filtered through from Anfield...
Swansea starting XI: Vorm; Tiendalli, Bartley, Monk, Davies; Britton, Agustien, De Guzman; Hernandez, Lamah, Shechter
Swansea bench: Tremmel, Rangel, Williams, Michu, Routledge, Dyer, Moore
Interestingly, only four players from the Swansea side that defeated Queens Park Rangers 4-1
last weekend have kept their place in the starting XI.
Jonathan de Guzman, Pablo Hernandez, Ben Davies and goalkeeper Michel Vorm are the four that keep their spots, while wholesale changes at the back include Ashley Williams dropping to the bench in place of Dwight Tiendalli and Garry Monk comes in for the injured Chico Flores.
Swansea danger man Michu, who has been prolific since his move to the Premier League in the summer, is demoted to the bench, which is likely to please many Liverpool fans.
As mentioned earlier, Sturridge is back among Liverpool's starting XI, and despite only being out of action for two of his side's recent fixtures, the striker's absence has been notable. While Luis Suarez is a huge threat, the Uruguayan has benefited from the partnership with the former Chelsea forward.
There's still no place for Martin Skrtel in Liverpool's defensive line as Jamie Carragher, who has announced that he will retire from football at the end of the season, keeps his spot alongside Daniel Agger.
While Swansea's away form, which has resulted in just one win from six, is poor, Liverpool will arguably be feeling more pressure to clinch all three points following their dismal result against West Brom and mid-week's 2-0 defeat
to Zenit St. Petersburg in the first leg of the round-of-32 tie in the Europa League.
Swansea, on the other hand, are in seventh place in the Premier League and have the chance of winning silverware in the League Cup final against Bradford next weekend. However, if they are looking to get back on track in terms of away form, they need as much firepower up top as they can. So Laudrup's omission of Michu is quite a big risk to take.
Of course we can't forget that this time 12 months ago, Rodgers was helping to keep Swansea in the top flight. While playing against your former manager can affect some, Williams, who starts on the bench today, has insisted that he is unfazed about coming up against Rodgers. He told Wales Online earlier this week: "Yes, there's the fact [Joe Allen's] there and obviously Brendan is there so it's going to be massive in that respect. But I wouldn't say there's a sentimental edge. It'll probably always be like that."
If you've only just joined us and you're wondering why this fixture is being played during FA Cup weekend. Well, it was rearranged due to Swansea's League Cup final bout next weekend. The decision to move the game to today didn't please Liverpool boss Rodgers, who has had to prepare his side for three games this week - West Brom on Monday, Zenit on Thursday and Swansea today. Rodgers told the Sunday People: "I'm very disappointed with the Premier League. There were a number of weeks we could have played the game. To put it on when we had a game on Monday, a trip to Russia and a second leg next Thursday is another example of the Premier League not helping teams whatsoever."
If Liverpool fail to get a result today, I imagine that won't help brighten Rodgers's mood... We are just 20 minutes or so away from kickoff at Anfield, so let's have a look at the form of each side heading into today's battle.
Liverpool have won five of their last seven home games in the Premier League but in terms of all competitions, they have not managed to clinch a victory in their last four encounters.
Swansea have been inconsistent of late, securing two victories, two draws and one defeat in their last five matches, and as mentioned earlier, only won win from six away games.
Interestingly, Liverpool have not been able to score against Swansea in the league since their promotion with Rodgers in 2011. I'm sure Suarez and Sturridge will be hoping to change that this afternoon.
In terms of lineups, I expect a 4-4-1-1 from the home side, with Suarez playing just behind Sturridge so he's is able to receive the ball early and feed it to his strike partner. Meanwhile, Swansea, I believe, will enter the field in a 4-3-3 formation, with Lamah, Schechter and Hernandez posing an attacking threat as opposed to last week's 4-5-1 system with Michu up front on his own.
Match predictions? Hmm I'd say a 2-1 victory for the Reds, mainly due to their need to respond following their two losses this week and Swansea clearly have one eye on the League Cup final next weekend.
We have just over 10 minutes to go until we get underway at Anfield!
Want some more interesting facts while we wait for kickoff? Of course you do. Liverpool are the first team in the top five leagues in Europe to have 500 shots this season. Also, Swansea have dropped just two points from leading positions this season.
We're almost ready to go! The teams have emerged from the tunnel and are out on the field to do the obligatory handshakes as 'You'll Never Walk Alone' rings around the stadium.
Liverpool get us underway in the first half, kicking towards the Kop end...
Agger moves forward from the back line to pass the ball into the feet of Gerrard, who fails to control it and gives the ball away.
Liverpool get a corner and Gerrard plays it short to Countinho, who moves to the corner of the box to get a shot in but it gets blocked and goes out for another corner.
Gerrard finds the feet of Downing from the corner spot. The winger takes a shot but it goes flying over the bar. Early pressure from the Reds.
Monk has Suarez breathing down his neck but he manages to clear the danger by safely passing the ball back to Vorm.
Johnson drives down the right and switches the play to Downing, who passes to Suarez, who runs into the area and tries to play it out wide to Johnson but it's misplaced and goes out.
SAVE! Suarez gets it back and finds space on the right to drive into the box and get a shot on goal but Vorm manages to gather with ease.
Some sloppy play from Liverpool there as they give the ball away in their own half to Lamah, who storms from the right and moves into the box towards the byline. He pulls it back but there are enough Liverpool shirts to clear the danger.
CHANCE! From a Swansea corner, Lamah finds himself with plenty of space on the edge of the area. The forward takes the shot but Carragher blocks the chance.
Some lovely interplay between Suarez and Enrique at the other end. Suarez manages to retrieve the ball in the box but Vorm closes down on the Uruguayan and is able to snatch the ball from the striker's feet.
Swansea have a spell of possession in midfield with Britton, who tries to cross the ball out wide but he gives it away to Sturridge.
Liverpool swiftly play the ball out to the right through Johnson, who storms down the flanks and lofts the ball into the box. While Vorm moves from his line, Monk drifts back into the penalty area to header out for a corner, which comes to nothing.
A trademark ball from Gerrard in the middle of the park finds Sturridge on the left, who tries to fool his opponent with a step over but his effort gets blocked.
CHANCE! Oh dear. Downing has a great opportunity to find the target as he receives the ball on the edge of the area. He sets up his shot but he slices it well wide and it goes flying into the stands.
Liverpool get a free kick just a metre from the penalty box after Britton puts his right leg across Suarez, who goes down and the whistle blows from referee Howard Webb. The right decision from the official.
Gerrard takes the free kick with a powerful shot towards the net but he slams it into the wall and while the ball falls in front of Suarez, the striker's follow-up goes blazing over the bar.
The home side get another free kick outside of the box after Suarez was pulled down by Tiendalli after the tricky forward moved to the wrong side of the defender.
Suarez takes the free kick and aims his shot for the top right corner of the goal but it fails to trouble Vorm as it flies over the bar.
Gerrard goes for the long-ball option with Sturridge in sight but Bartley gets a head to it first but Suarez is there to pick up the loose ball and goes for a shot but once again his effort dips over the bar.
Swansea seem settled but they haven't posed a threat as yet at Anfield, while Liverpool have all the possession and control of the game, but once again they lack any clinical finishing in the final third.
Lamah snatches the ball in midfield and passes out to the right-hand side to Hernandez, who leaves Lucas behind and finds space to take a low cross into the box with Schechtar in mind, but the ball gets cleared.
MISS! At the other end, Sturridge has the chance to put his side in the lead as he receives the ball from Downing, who whips it into the box to find the head of the former Chelsea striker, who heads towards goal but it just drifts out wide.
CHANCE! Another opportunity from Liverpool goes missing. Suarez picks up the ball in midfield and launches it perfectly to Sturridge, who drives into the box and runs across beating two players but goes to ground when he gets contact from Bartley. He appeals for a penalty but Webb refuses to give it.
Agustien switches play to the right with a long cross to Tiendalli, who fails to control it and Liverpool regain possession.
Some clever play from Coutinho there. The Brazilian picks the ball up just outside of the area and he delays his pass while Sturridge gets into position. The playmaker slides the ball past two defenders to find Sturridge, who mistimes his run and fails to get a shot on goal.
SAVE! An easy save for Vorm once again as Lucas receives the ball from a short Gerrard pass just outside the 18-yard box. The Brazilian shoots towards the centre of the net but Vorm gathers with ease.
Tiendalli drives forward from right-back to the corner of the box and crosses the ball over the top looking for a white shirt but Reina jumps and snatches the ball from the air as Liverpool look to build from the back again.
Agger's given space to move forward. He plays a short ball to Enrique, who passes to Sturridge on the left but his touch is poor and it goes out.
PENALTY! Suarez, who has been at the centre of everything at the moment, wins a penalty for his team. He receives the ball from Gerrard's corner and goes one on one with Agustien. The Uruguayan moves out to the byline to get a cross in but Agustien's right leg moves across the striker to bring him down.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Swansea (Gerrard)
He doesn't miss it this time! Gerrard may have been left red faced against West Brom on Monday by missing from the spot, but Gerrard's right-footed shot drives into the bottom left corner of the goal to give his side a deserved lead.
Liverpool pile the pressure on Swansea as Gerrard, Suarez and Downing launch shots on goal within seconds of each other but the men in white do just enough to clear the danger.
Swansea manage to move out of their own area and compose themselves with some possession in midfield, but Britton's ball to De Guzman goes out of play as he misplaces his pass. It seems to sum up Swansea's afternoon so far!
It's all Liverpool once again as Downing latches onto a ball from Sturridge on the edge of the area. The winger wants it on his left foot but he moves to the right side of the box and swivels to get a shot on goal but it's blocked by a hoard of bodies.
Suarez picks up the ball yet again and releases Sturridge with his first touch. Sturridge drives to the byline to get a tight shot on goal but Vorm does his job at the near post and Swansea survive.
Johnson gets the ball on the right and pulls it back to find Gerrard, who storms into the box but his touch pushes the ball too far ahead of him and Monk gets a foot on it and blasts it out of the danger area.
Swansea finally get an opportunity to shoot through De Guzman, who positions himself well away from approaching red shirts and gets his left-footed shot goal-bound but Reina dives to his right to gather the ball.
A poor ball from Hernandez allows Sturridge to latch onto it and pass back to Downing. The winger plays a short ball to Suarez who leaves it for Sturridge behind him but the striker fails to read it and Monk collects the ball.
Enrique gives away a free kick just above the half-way line after bringing down Shechter.
De Guzman aims the ball towards the box and finds the head of Monk, who manages to free himself away from the Liverpool defence but his header is poor and it goes out for a corner, which is eventually cleared by the Reds.
The fourth official indicates just one minute of added time.
Johnson moves to the edge of the box and swiftly passes across to Sturridge, who drives into the box but his touch pushes the ball too far ahead and Vorm gathers.
HALF-TIME: Liverpool 1-0 Swansea
Liverpool thoroughly deserve their one-goal cushion following a first half of pressure and possession. Suarez has arguably been the home side's best player of the match so far. The tricky Uruguayan has been difficult to handle for the Swans and has popped up in all areas of the pitch! His vision has ensured plenty of opportunities for the Reds and he won the penalty, which Gerrard converted to give Liverpool the lead.
Rodgers will be pleased with his side's display in the first 45 minutes. They've controlled the game from start to finish, which is perhaps not that surprising considering Laudrup has fielded a relatively weakened team with one eye on next weekend's League Cup final.
While Monk has been strong in defence for the Swans, and he also had the chance to equalise for his side at the other end with a header, Laudrup's men have been unable to impose their game at Anfield and Reina has rarely been troubled.
It'll be interesting to see if Laudrup changes things in the second half because as things stand, you'd expect Liverpool to add to their goal tally considering their domination in the game.
That being said, Liverpool have been the side on top plenty of times this season and have failed to convert their chances and kill off the game. Swansea will be hoping for the same in the second half, and let's not forget, they have Michu to bring on from the bench.
While Suarez has been strong, Sturridge has looked slightly off the pace for the Reds so far. It could be down to his recent thigh injury but his first touch has let him down on a number of occasions. Although, the link-up play between himself and Suarez has been impressive.
Right, both sides have emerged onto the field for the second half, which will get underway in a matter of moments.
Swansea get us going in the second half. It's worth noting that neither side have made any changes at half-time.
GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Swansea (Coutinho)
Wow, what a start from the Reds! Suarez is once again involved as he picks the ball up and finds new boy Coutinho in front. He drives past two players and sets up his shot from just outside of the area and blasts it past Vorm into the back of the net.
Well, that throws Laudrup's team talk out if the window! How will they respond now? Liverpool have kept on the pressure following the second goal and Agustien picks up the loose ball to clear the ball but it's sloppy and goes out of play.
GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Swansea (Enrique)
Liverpool are running riot! A great team goal from the Reds. Suarez gets the ball from the edge of the area and swiftly passes to Enrique, who back heels the ball to Sturridge in the box. Enrique continues his run and receives the ball bacl from Sturridge to toe poke the ball into the top of Vorm's net.
Enrique tries a long-ball effort from his left-back position to find the feet of Sturridge, but the striker is rightfully flagged offside.
Suarez moves up to the byline to win Liverpool a corner. Gerrard takes it as Carragher moves forward but Agger jumps to get a head to it. His effort is poor and goes wide.
Gerrard seeks out Sturridge with a long cross into the box from midfield. Sturridge picks it up cleanly but his pass fails to find the feet of Suarez.
GOAL! Liverpool 4-0 Swansea (Suarez)
Well, it had to be him didn't it?! Suarez gets a well-deserved goal after receiving the ball from Downing just yards outside of the area. He strolls past two Swansea players and moves just to the left to drive the ball into the back of the net and Vorm has no chance to stop it.
Swansea get a rare spell of possession as they pass back and forth from the defensive line but Britton gives the ball away again. It sums up their afternoon.
SUBSTITUTION Coutinho, who scored on his full debut, makes way for Henderson with a huge round of applause from the crowd.
Anytime Swansea get the ball they're unable to launch an attack. They look lacklustre and have given the ball away on many occasions. That doesn't take anything away from Liverpool's performance though, which has been at its flowing best.
Suarez drops deep and enjoys some one-touch play with Henderson, who passes to Downing, who in turn slides the ball out to Johnson, who wins a free kick.
SAVE! Great save for Vorm, who moves off his line to stop a shot from Sturridge. Suarez has the chance to get the follow-up but his shot glides over the bar.
SUBSTITUTION Swansea make their first change of the game as Lamah makes way for Routledge.
Johnson snatches the ball from a misplaced pass by Routledge and completely wastes a chance by trying to chip Vorm from the right just above the half-way line.
A nice move from Swansea as Hernandez manages to dink past Enrique to find Routledge, who passes to De Guzman with his first touch but Enrique runs back to clear the danger.
CHANCE! At the other end, Henderson breaks free to slide the ball into the feet of Sturridge, who launches a right-footed shot goal-bound, but he misses the target and Swansea can breathe again.
Johnson gets acres of space in the right. The Liverpool full-back drives towards the edge of the box and tries to feed in Sturridge but Monk gets a foot on the ball and clears.
A lovely well-timed ball over the top from Downing falls towards Suarez, but the Uruguayan is muscled out of it and the chance goes begging.
PENALTY! Liverpool get another penalty due to a hand ball from Routledge. Enrique crosses into the box looking for Suarez but Routledge gets there first. His arm moves into the air but as he tries to move it out of the way it just grazes his arm.
GOAL! Liverpool 5-0 Swansea (Sturridge)
Sturridge adds to Liverpool's goal tally after Gerrard handed the ball over to the striker. He hits the ball cleanly into the top left corner of the net. Vorm dives the right way but he fails to get a hand to it and the home side go five up at Anfield.
CHANCE! Sturridge was very close to making it six! The striker latches onto a loose ball just on the right edge of the area. He sets up his shot and drives it towards the net but it just skims the top of the bar.
Some lovely interplay from Downing and Henderson, who gets his cross in from the byline but it falls a little too far for Sturridge to get a shot on goal.
BOOKING! Hernandez gets cautioned by Webb for a reckless lunge on Agger.
SUBSTITUTION That's the end of Hernandez's day as he leaves the field for Dyer. Also, a little earlier, Liverpool made a change by taking Lucas off for Allen.
SUBSTITUTION Suarez receives a huge round of applause from the crowd as he comes off the pitch for Borini. He shows his appreciation to the crowd but doesn't look too happy to be taken off.
Johnson moves to the outside of the penalty area and tries to slide the ball into the box. It rebounds off a white shirt and almost bobbles into the path of Borini, but he can't latch onto to it to shoot.
Liverpool get another corner as Enrique drives down the left to launch a cross from the byline but it gets knocked out. The corner gets knocked back to Carragher as Liverpool try to maintain their five-goal lead with just under 10 minutes to go.
CHANCE! Borini plays the short ball to Johnson in the box. The full-back has time to take a shot but he drives it towards the net but it glides across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
SUBSTITUTION Swansea makes another change as Shechtar comes off for Rangel.
SAVE! Reina makes his first save of the game as Routledge takes a shot from the left corner of the box but Reina drops to his side in time to grab the ball.
Oh dear. Borini screams in pain after landing awkwardly trying to snatch the ball from Bartley. He moves off the field with what looks like a dislocated and Liverpool have to finish the game with 10 men as they've used all of their substitutes.
Henderson wriggles away from Agustien but his touch is too heavy and he can't catch the ball to launch a run towards goal.
Liverpool are just calmly passing the ball back and forth in their own half. They must feel that the job is done with only a few minutes remaining of the game.
Swansea have a last push through Routledge, who plays the ball out wide to Davies, but Johnson is able to get to the ball first and end the Swans' attempt.
The fourth official indicates three minutes of added time.
Enrique tries to latch onto a low long ball but Vorm moves out from his line to clear the danger and both sides look content with the game coming to an end.
FULL-TIME: Liverpool 5-0 Swansea
Well, it's all over at Anfield. It turned out to be a very comfortable evening for the Reds as Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique all found the net. It is an afternoon to forget for Swansea though, who failed to pose any threat on the game throughout the 90 minutes.
Arguably, Swansea had one eye on next weekend's League Cup final at Wembley due to their weakened team, but Liverpool will be buoyed following their recent poor run.
Liverpool now move up to seventh in the Premier League table
, while the Swans drop to eighth.
Thank you for joining me, I hope you enjoyed it! Make sure you return to Sports Mole next weekend for more Premier League action and throughout the week for Champions League and Europa League matches. Enjoy!