Hands up who enjoys the international break?
I’ll take an estimated guess that the majority of you kept your hands firmly by your sides (or refused to play along and want to see where I’m going with this) as so many times an international break halts the progress being made in a league campaign.
Qualifiers for a World Cup or a European Championships can just about be excused, it’s not their fault after all, but friendly games need a lot to answer for when they put a one, sometimes two, week gap in the life of a supporter.
Even though you don’t want to give these games the satisfaction of your attention you feel you have to tune in to make sure our star players stay injury free, as obviously you watching the game is better than any medical treatment they could receive from their national team.
Having said all that, and potentially started a campaign to ban international football altogether, this mini international break may not be the worst thing at this present time.
Second in the league, on a nine-game unbeaten run domestically and you’re saying a break in momentum is a good thing? I know I’m contradicting myself beyond belief, but hear me out.
For most international managers this is their last opportunity during the season to take a look at players who are trying to edge their names onto a guest list for Brazil 2014. If many are like Roy Hodgson then they will have named a larger squad than normal to maximise their opportunities of seeing if a player can hack it at international level, even if it may seem harsh to judge them on a forty-five minute run out in a slow tempo friendly.
This means that the likes of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel for example, who are all regulars for their countries, may well be given a rest for one game only, or at least feature sparingly throughout the ninety-minutes.
For players such as Joe Allen and Glen Johnson, two players who require more game time to improve their levels of match sharpness, it could be a good thing for Brendan Rodgers that he sees those players get another cap. The more players that Rodgers has at his disposal that are fully fit going into the remaining ten games of the season puts his squad at an optimum level to give themselves a chance of unrivalled glory come May.
Even for those players that have featured heavily this season, calling Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling out for this example, the chance to impress another manager and continue to score goals must be a welcomed opportunity and enhances the confidence they harbour within themselves.
If this international break goes to plan (or my plan at least) then Liverpool could have an even more rejuvenated squad to tackle the business end of the season with.
Get any injuries, however, and I will begin writing up that campaign to ban international football.
By Michael Williams (@mikewilliams_05)
They say that at the start of a season, you shouldn’t pay any attention to the league table until 10 games in. That’s when it starts to take shape, and truly reflects how teams are performing. But with 10 games left of the season, I’m equally as wary of what it shows.
Obviously we are now getting a good idea of what teams will be finishing in what sort of positions; who is in a relegation battle, who is destined for the mid-table, and who is battling for European spots. Mathematically the league table tells us that Manchester United could still finish as champions, but we use our common sense to know that it’s not at all likely.
Over the past couple of days, seemingly any time the phrase ‘Liverpool are up to second’ has been uttered, it has been law to follow it up with ‘but Manchester City have two games in hand.’ Then you have to look into how those two games will affect the table. Two wins, and Man City go top. Two draws, and they level up on points with us and Arsenal, but leapfrog us both on goal difference. Two losses, and it’s as you were.
This coming weekend will add only more uncertainty, with many teams not playing due to the FA Cup fixtures. More games in hand, that may or may not be converted into three points, and may or may not cause movement in the table. And without Liverpool even playing, we are looking at the fixtures and the table, and assessing what results would suit us. If Tottenham beat Chelsea then we are four points off top spot, with a game in hand and still to play the leaders at Anfield. But that takes Tottenham to within three points of us, and the following week if we lose at Old Trafford and they beat Arsenal then they are level on points with us, and Man City may use their games to steal a march in the title race.
A lot of ifs and a lot of buts. And none of it really matters, as things can change so quickly in this league that one set of results isn’t going to make or break anyone’s season. It’s what you do over every single one of the 38 games. So far we haven’t let ourselves down too often. But neither have Chelsea, Arsenal or Man City.
Our rivals may have looked at our weekend’s fixture away to Southampton as a potential banana skin for us to slip up on. Likewise with Arsenal away to Stoke. Which is fine, as seeing the teams around you drop points, especially at the top where it happens so infrequently, can get you looking at the table and seeing what advantage can be taken. But did Arsenal losing to Stoke put any more importance on our game at St Mary’s? Of course not. Our focus has to be on ourselves, and playing to the best of our ability every single match. We could win every one of our remaining games but still not win the title, and in that case we would just have to take our hats off and say well done to whoever performed well enough to finish above us.
Maybe it’s just different being a Liverpool supporter in this situation, as the consensus was that our aim this season was to finish in the top four. To be closer points wise to the top spot than fifth, is perhaps affording us a bit of luxury in that we have exceeded expectations, and even a poor end to our season could see us reach our initial target. Therefore we don’t need to get carried away with title thoughts, but simply take each game as it comes and see where we end up. First, second, third, or fourth would all be taken as a good season for us, whereas the other three teams may be disappointed in anything but first.
If it gets to the last day of the season and we’re still in with a shout of finishing as champions, I couldn’t blame anyone for looking at the table and the fixtures and working out how we need things to play out to see our dreams come true. But trying to work it all out with 10 games left is too premature, and rather than get carried away with what might be, I think everyone is better off just sitting back and enjoying what is sure to be an exhilarating ride.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)
Liverpool are closing in on Champions League football next season, and should they succeed, Brendan Rodgers will have the stern task of readying his side for the many dangers that lie ahead, with reinforcements certainly needed.
According to the latest reports, Liverpool are showing a keen interest in Benfica winger Nicolas Gaitan, who is a long-term target of Manchester United.
The Argentine attacker would be a top signing for the Reds, for four main reasons:
Read the rest of this entry »
The league is definitely taking another twist, we are in for the title. yes!
Walking down the memory lane, 08/09 saw the Mancs snatching it away from us by four points, because we conceded just a few too many draws. Our squad was really paper thin at that time and we were busy trying to get injured players back (by all means) on track. Over and above the injuries of a squad without much depth, both the fans and the players were forced to adjust to the policy of the then two owners of the club. Yet, we were thrashing the Mancs at their own den. We were fighting on the champions league front at the same time. Chelsea and its billion dollar armada was beaten at Anfield.
At the end when we came out second, Gerrard said: ‘…we can win it within the coming 5 years…’ these few words of Gerrard are still echoing the rhythm and beats of hope in my heart.
That time has come! the five years journey irrespective of the outcome, will soon lapse…That time has come for us not to commit the same mistake of 2008/2009! No more draws in easy-to-win matches!
That pressure will turn into motivation if we ponder on how we missed the title in 2008/2009.
I think we are on our way now! Let’s WALK ON WITH OUR HEAD HIGH and exorcise 2008/2009… because there’ll never be a better chance…let’s not miss it this time!
28 games played. 59 points. 73 goals scored, the most in the league. And we are riding high in 2nd place. Did any of us truly see this coming at the start of the season? No. Did the pundits? Absolutely not.
Over the last four games the atmosphere and expectation around Liverpool has grown massively, and in a very positive way. With 10 games to go we are sitting 4 points off current leaders Chelsea, and are only second to Manchester City in the goal difference department.
As Liverpool fans we have had to learn to lower our expectations over recent years about what we can achieve. Champions League football has been absent from Anfield for 5 years now. It has been a major miss, those big European nights, You’ll Never Walk Alone being belted out by the Kop, and the players producing both magic, and occasionally, the odd miracle.
At the beginning of this season, the expectation for Liverpool Football Club was 4th place. This coming from the fans mainly, and a few of the pundits. Nobody would have thought that any more than fourth place could be achieved, fourth in itself was seen as a huge challenge, what with the woeful performances in the league throughout the last few seasons, and the 7th placed finish last season.
Fast forward to now though and the reality is we have made very few slip ups this season, away to Hull and at home to Southampton stand out in my mind, and the result of this is that we are in with a shout of winning the league title. Arsenal came to Anfield and got torn apart within 20 minutes. And they have not been the only victims of our outstanding attack this term.
An attack that has allowed us to be the top scorers in the league and have the all-important second best goal difference, something which could prove vital come the final league standings. Sturridge, Suarez, Sterling and Coutinho have all been an absolute revelation this season. Sturridge has been in great goal scoring form, Suarez is now arguably the best player in the world, and Sterling has certainly taken his game to another level. Coutinho has proved to be one of the best pieces of business the club has ever done.
Couple all of this with Jordan Henderson’s engine in the middle of the park, and Steven Gerrards’ sheer class and ability to still score the important goals, even at the age of 33. So with all these ingredients, have we got a team capable of winning the league title? Yes we do!
I’m not saying we WILL win the league. I’m saying we can. We are only four points off the top with ten games left. Everything is positive for Liverpool at the moment. We are in the title race, and deservedly so. The job Rodgers has done is nothing short of sublime. Until it is mathematically impossible, I will not stop believing that we can do it. And belief is everything.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
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