There’s no room for Scrooges at Anfield this Christmas – the feeling is good and so it should be. Besides, Ebenezer Mourinho is doing his bit to absorb all the negative press while Jurgen Klopp’s men continue to shine. Feeling festive and all that, here are 12 reasons for all Liverpool fans to be jolly…
Matt English @mj_english
A comfortable 2-0 over Leeds United at Anfield ensured Liverpool reached the semi-finals of the EFL Cup for a record 17th time. Drawn against Southampton, the first leg of the tie will be played at St. Mary’s Stadium on the week commencing January 9th, with the return leg at Anfield a fortnight later. In previous EFL Cup meetings between the two clubs, Liverpool won 6-1 in the quarter-finals last season and clinched a 3-0 aggregate victory when they met in the semi-finals in 1987. The luck of the draw means the Reds will have the 12th man to their advantage in the deciding leg in a bid to reach the final for the second year running. Either Man United or Hull City await for a clash at Wembley, or as it’s more commonly known, Anfield South.
2) The fear factor
Nobody wants to play Liverpool. A collective sigh must be heard in training grounds around England when teams look at their fixture lists and it’s Anfield on the calendar. Klopp, Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz enjoyed great success working together at Borussia Dortmund, and there’s no doubt that the trio have implemented their ‘heavy metal’ style of football at Anfield. Relentless attacking and heavy pressing has brought plenty of goals and excitement already this term. Add to the mix goalkeeping coach John Achterberg and first-team development coach Pep Lijnders, and Liverpool are in very good hands to develop into a force in Europe once again.
3) The Kloppelganger
Since I’m on the subject of staff, let’s not forget one man who’s brought amusement to us all for the sheer fact he looks exactly like Herr Klopp. Andreas Kornmayer, head of fitness and conditioning, could literally have been hired on the basis that he is Klopp’s doppelganger. As if one Klopp isn’t good enough, suddenly his mirror image gets up from the bench to offer his expertise during a game – fantastic. He’s worked his magic on getting the squad up to speed with Klopp’s high-pressing game since joining from Bayern Munich in the summer, and he’s got the look down to a tee.
4) Squad harmony
Isn’t it nice to see a smiley, happy team turning out good performances? Klopp’s definitely got the dressing room on his side and a cuddle after each game must be doing wonders for the players’ confidence. It must be hard not to smile when you’re playing such good football. That, or some players just want to show off their dentists’ good work (Bobby Firmino, keep flashing those gnashers). But it’s evident throughout the team, from Gini Wijnaldum’s beaming smile, to Ben Woodburn’s boyish delight at scoring his first senior goal for Liverpool. The only player not showing his pearly whites enough is injury prone Daniel Sturridge. Perhaps he just needs more hugs, and a new pair of legs for Christmas?
5) Coutinho’s injury
This is no reason to be jolly. What are you, a Man U fan? No, the fact Coutinho is injured is devastating to say the least, but the news that the Little Magician could be back by New Year’s Eve is indeed, reason to be cheerful. When the Brazilian went down clutching his ankle in the first half against Sunderland, later sporting a protective boot and crutches, alarm bells were ringing. The eagerly awaited scans proved there was no break and ligament damage was the diagnosis, meaning he’ll miss up to five weeks of action. Liverpool play Man City on NYE, so we hope to see the no.10 back for what will be a vital game.
6) Divock Origi
Just when the Reds started to look short on options in attack – with Danny Ings out for the season, Sturridge (again) sidelined, Adam Lallana with a groin strain, Coutinho nursing his ankle and even Firmino taking a knock to the calf – Divock Origi steps up and scores in two consecutive games. The 21-year-old Belgian came off the bench to score the opening goal of a 2-0 win against a (very) defensive Sunderland team and followed up with the opener against Leeds in the EFL Cup three days later. Origi has only started four matches this season – all in the League Cup – but with injuries plaguing the ranks his services will be called upon more often.
7) The Main Stand
Liverpool’s superb new Main Stand not only looks the part, but it offers extra noise adding to the already intimidating atmosphere at Anfield. It took 614 days to build, but the mega 20,500-seater stand adds a further 8,500 seats, which means there are now 54,167 pairs of lungs belting out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ every game. £115million well spent.
Club legend Steven Gerrard announcing his retirement from football was perhaps a rather sad moment for Liverpool fans, but the imminent news that he’ll take a job at the Academy is something to look forward to. Gerrard is continuing his UEFA ‘A’ license with the help of the Liverpool staff and is all set to become a coach for the youth ranks. Future Liverpool manager? He’ll certainly learn a fair few things from Klopp.
9) Tasty transfer rumours
It’s that time of season, a month to go until the transfer market opens its doors and rumours are flying around linking every player under the sun with a move to Liverpool. Given the recent injury problems, Klopp’s need to go to market is of no great surprise and reinforcements in attack would be welcome at Anfield. Celtic’s Moussa Dembele, Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Sassuolo’s Gregoire Defrel are just three names linked with the club, just wait for the Marco Reus rumours to get going.
10) The Academy
But let’s not go too crazy in the transfer market, because the Academy production line is producing some top home-grown talent. Thanks to Academy director Alex Inglethorpe and his staff, talented youngsters are coming through to make an impact for the first team and none more so than Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn, who started in the 2-0 League Cup win against Leeds along with fellow graduate Ovie Ejaria. A pinpoint Alexander-Arnold assist set up Origi for the first goal and Woodburn almost burst the net in front of the Kop to wrap up the win and send Liverpool into the semi-final draw.
11) “…Woodburn, Woodburn 58.”
This lad deserves a special mention and is one to watch for the future. He made his Premier League debut coming off the bench against Sunderland, albeit for a few minutes, but what was to follow in the game against Leeds was even more special. At 17 years and 45 days, the Academy star latched on to Wijnaldum’s assist and became Liverpool’s all-time youngest goalscorer, breaking a record previously held by Michael Owen. Must be something in the water in Chester.
12) The title race
Yeah, I said it. Whether you like it or not (what’s not to like?), Liverpool are in the title race. Currently one point behind Chelsea, the Reds have been on a scintillating run of form that has locked them in to the top four. A return to Champions League football has to be the priority for Klopp’s men, but finishing top of the tree at Christmas doesn’t look unreasonable at this stage of the campaign, and you all know the omen that goes with that. (In case you don’t, six times in the past seven seasons the team at the top of the table on December 25 has been there at the end of the season. I’ll leave you with that.)