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Feb 4, 2017 at 3pm UK at ​The KCOM Stadium
Attendance: 24,822
Hull City
N'Diaye (44'), Niasse (84')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Hull City vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League clash between a resurgent Hull City and an out-of-form Liverpool at the KCOM Stadium.

Liverpool will travel to the KCOM Stadium on Saturday looking to put a woeful January behind them, but a resurgent Hull City stand in their way.

Fifteen places and 29 points separate the two sides in the table, but the Tigers have vastly improved under Marco Silva and will be hopeful of picking up another surprise victory when Jurgen Klopp's side come to town.


Hull City manager Marco Silva watches on during the Premier League clash with Bournemouth at the KCOM Stadium on January 14, 2017© SilverHub

On the face of it, the decision to sack Mike Phelan at the start of the year seemed like a harsh one. The Tigers were in poor form and looked increasingly destined for the drop, but Phelan had done an admirable job considering he took over just three weeks before the new season and had a threadbare squad of players to choose from.

However, just a month later that difficult decision appears to be paying dividends, with Hull having enjoyed a notable upturn in form since the arrival of Silva.

A narrow defeat to Manchester United over two legs in the EFL Cup semi-final may have seen them crash out of the competition, but the performances provided plenty of encouraging signs, which built on wins over Swansea City and Bournemouth, and even the defeat to Chelsea.

Last weekend's 4-1 FA Cup loss to Championship side Fulham was the first major blip of Silva's reign, but crucially they bounced back immediately and held United to a goalless draw on Wednesday in what was the third meeting between the two sides in as many weeks.

Hull could have even won the match late on when Lazar Markovic hit the post, but Silva would have been more than content with just a solitary point, even if it did not do a great deal for their survival hopes.

The Tigers had lost their previous nine away league games before their trip to Old Trafford, while their clean sheet was just the second they have kept all season - a joint league-low alongside Crystal Palace.

If Silva can recreate those away performances on a regular basis then it will be a great help to their hopes of avoiding the drop, particularly considering they have been infallible at home since the Portuguese arrived.

Wins over Swansea, Bournemouth and Manchester United mean that Hull have a 100% record at the KCOM Stadium under Silva, and even before his arrival they were in relatively good form, with just one defeat in their last nine home outings across all competitions now.

The visit of Liverpool provides another big test for Hull, though, and they have lost all four of their previous home league games against sides in the top six so far this season. The Tigers are also the only club in the division yet to keep a clean sheet in front of their own fans - not ideal when they are welcoming the league's highest scorers.

However, while a run of successive matches against United, Liverpool and Arsenal may have seemed like more nails being inevitably hammered into their coffin a month ago, Hull will approach both this weekend's game and next Saturday's clash with the Gunners with much more belief that they can get something out of them now.

With Swansea and Crystal Palace showing signs of finding a bit of form, though, Silva will know that he cannot afford to let the four-point gap to safety grow much bigger in the coming weeks.

Recent form: LDLWLD
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWLD


Jurgen Klopp applauds after the EFL Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Southampton on January 25, 2017© SilverHub

No team in the Premier League would have been more relieved to see the back of January than Liverpool.

Having ended 2016 with four consecutive victories, culminating in a 1-0 triumph over Manchester City, the Reds have managed just one win in nine games since the turn of the year - and that came against League Two Plymouth Argyle.

Dropped points from winning positions against Sunderland and Manchester United were harmful enough without the home defeat to struggling Swansea that followed, while January also saw the Reds crash out of both the EFL Cup and the FA Cup courtesy of home defeats.

Liverpool are very much a big-game team under Klopp, and so it proved on Tuesday as their best performance of the month greeted the visit of Premier League leaders Chelsea. Even then, though, the Reds were perhaps fortunate to come away with a 1-1 draw after Diego Costa saw a second-half penalty saved by Simon Mignolet.

That result was enough to avoid a fourth straight home defeat for only the second time in their history, and it also proved to be a good point gained considering Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester United all failed to win as well.

Even so, the gap to the leaders is now 10 points and while Liverpool's priority at the start of 2017 would have been chasing Chelsea down, right now it must be to hold off the challenge of the Manchester clubs, with City having drawn level on points following the midweek fixtures.

This weekend could provide a good opportunity for Liverpool to repair some of the damage done in January, though, with at least one of Chelsea or Arsenal guaranteed to drop points in Saturday's early kickoff and Spurs, City and United all in action after the Reds. Anything less than a victory for the Gunners at Stamford Bridge would mean a win lifts Liverpool back into second.

Only Chelsea and Manchester City have amassed more points on the road so far this season, but Liverpool have drawn their last two away league games and are winless in their last four home and away - their worst run under Klopp. A draw or defeat this weekend would make it their longest winless streak in the Premier League since September 2012.

Hopes will be high that they can end that run and pick up a first league win of 2017, though, and the prospect of a relatively clear February schedule is something to look forward to for Liverpool. Having had to endure nine matches in their dismal January run, the Reds have just three games this month - their fewest in a full calendar month since November 2013.

Recent form: WWDDLD
Recent form (all competitions): DWLLLD

Team News

Sadio Mane in action during the Premier League game between Everton and Liverpool on December 19, 2016© SilverHub

Liverpool's dip in form has coincided with the absence of Sadio Mane at the Africa Cup of Nations, so the Reds will be delighted to welcome him back into the starting lineup this weekend.

Having made a cameo appearance off the bench against Chelsea, the Senegal winger is expected to make his first Liverpool start for more than a month this weekend, most likely replacing Emre Can in the side.

Nathaniel Clyne and Jordan Henderson continue to play through the pain barrier for the Reds, but they have no new injury concerns and Klopp is able to name his strongest XI for the first time since November 26.

Hull, on the other hand, are beset with injury problems and are missing as many as nine senior players, including long-term absentees Curtis Davies and Ryan Mason.

Dieumerci Mbokani is back available having returned from the Africa Cup of Nations, but Ahmed Elmohamady has reached the final with Egypt and remains in Gabon.

Markovic is ineligible to feature against his parent club, but he could be replaced in the side by £7m deadline day signing Kamil Grosicki, who will be hopeful of making his debut.

Andrea Ranocchia was another to arrive on deadline day and he featured as a second-half sub against United but, having kept a rare clean sheet, Silva may opt against bringing him into the defence from the start this weekend.

Hull possible starting lineup:
Jakupovic; Meyler, Dawson, Maguire, Robertson; Grosicki, Evandro, Huddlestone, Clucas, Tymon; Hernandez

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Lallana; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho

Head To Head

Hull have only ever won two of their 21 meetings with Liverpool in all competitions (D5 L14), but both of those have come in Liverpool's last two visits to the KCOM Stadium.

Indeed, the Tigers have not lost to Liverpool in their last three meetings on home soil stretching back to 2009, while home and away the last six clashes between the two sides have been evenly split with two wins apiece and two draws.

The reverse fixture was a one-sided affair, though, as Liverpool thrashed 10-man Hull 5-1 at Anfield in September, with James Milner grabbing two penalties to add to strikes from Adam Lallana, Mane and Philippe Coutinho.

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We say: Hull 1-2 Liverpool

Hull are not making it easy for teams under Silva, but they should be a little more attacking at home than they were during the midweek draw with United, which could provide more space for Liverpool. Having Mane back is a huge boost for the visitors, and the draw against Chelsea may be the stepping stone they need to return to form following a dreadful start to the year.

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Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates their late equalising goal to level the score at 2-2 the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield in Liverpool, northwest England, on December 13, 2015
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