There can be no question that Liverpool have defied all odds and expectation in the Premier League this season to mount a serious title challenge that may be set to fall at the penultimate hurdle. Relinquishing a 3 goal lead at Crystal Palace handed Manchester City a significant advantage in the title race, but it has been a wonderful season on Anfield for Brendan Rodgers and the players, irrespective of what happens. The Reds have played some scintillating football throughout the 2013/2014 season, with 99 goals in 37 Premier League games illustrating an attacking threat which has blown many teams aside.
While there is one game remaining of the season, many of Liverpool’s stars will have one eye on this summer’s World Cup where they hope to be picked by their respective national managers to represent their country and play in the most prestigious football tournament. The England squad may contain the most Liverpool players, with Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge likely to play starring roles in Roy Hodgson’s plans. Diminishing hopes and expectations in the national team has taken the spark away from the build-up to Brazil 2014, but with Liverpool’s England contingent in superb form, backing England to win the World Cup may carry an element of logic.
Captain for club and country
Talismanic club legend and captain Steven Gerrard has arguably enjoyed his best season in a Liverpool shirt, with the midfielder leading from the front with his trademark array of passing, set-piece ability and a canny knack of chipping in with crucial goals when Liverpool need a saviour. Brendan Rodgers has utilised Gerrard in a much deeper midfield role in front of the back four; while that has taken away an element of his dynamic play from making regular late runs into the box, it has enabled Gerrard to dictate the play and provide the platform from which Liverpool have simply flourished throughout the season. He is equally as vital to Rodgers as he is to Roy Hodgson, with the England manager valuing Gerrard’s leadership qualities with the captain’s armband.
Although Gerrard and 31-goal striker Luis Suarez have been nothing short of sensational for Liverpool this season, it should not undervalue the important contribution from other players who stand an excellent chance of being called up by England for the World Cup. Suarez’s striker partner has finally began to fulfil the potential that has been apparent for many years, with Daniel Sturridge finding a club where he feels at home and can play the style of football he thrives upon. 21 goals represent an excellent season for Sturridge who is also the highest scoring English player in the Premier League above Wayne Rooney, making his inclusion in the squad for Brazil 2014 a no-brainer.
It remains to be seen whether Sturridge can form a partnership with Rooney on a similar level to the wonderful telepathy he shares with Luis Suarez for Liverpool, but his considerable threat and overall performance may be aided by the potential presence of two other midfielders alongside Gerrard who could be vital to England’s chances. Raheem Sterling has really come of age in the 2013/2014 season, with his superb performances creating increasing support for his inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s squad. In an England side that has lacked pace and a spark over the year, Sterling provides both qualities in spades with his rapid acceleration and speed causing all sorts of problems for teams in the Premier League. The 19-year-old has also hit a purple patch in front of goal, with braces against Arsenal and Norwich either side of the crucial opening goal against Manchester City at Anfield showing he has what it takes to make a difference at the highest level on either wing, or through the middle of midfield.
It is testament to Jordan Henderson that Liverpool’s recent wobbles have come in his absence, for a player who was vilified in the past by many fans who felt he was not good enough to play for the club has transformed himself into a vital component in Brendan Rodgers’ team. Combining a wonderful ability to pick a pass out and contribute on the scoring front pushes Henderson’s case for a place in England’s World Cup squad as one of only a few English central midfielders in the modern game who can create and score.
Will Flanagan be on the plane to Brazil?
With injury and fitness doubts surrounding Kyle Walker’s chances of making this summer’s World Cup and Phil Jones recent injury England could be left with Glen Johnson as the only top quality right back to choose from. Johnson has enjoyed a wonderful season for Liverpool, with his trademark bursts forward adding an extra dimension to every attack, although he has worked hard on his defensive duties to quieten critics who have questioned his capability to defend. England simply cannot afford to take one right back to the World Cup, with the uncertainty surrounding Walker leaving many people scratching their heads for alternatives. Roy Hodgson could do a lot worse than take a look at John Flanagan who has shone as a regular starter for Liverpool this season, and even displayed his versatility by playing at left-back in the absence of Luis Enrique. Liverpool’s local lad has done the club proud this season through bravery and strong defensive qualities, with his first full season potentially having a fairy-tale ending with a place in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for Brazil 2014.