Apart from the Mascherano fall out and George Gillett’s late bid for attention, it’s been an quiet week with the team which is probably the way it should be going into this game.
Although many of our players were away on international duty it seems everyone has come “home” unscathed. Torres, playing for Spain agains Italy, was taken off after 49 minutes but is fit to play today. For England I don’t think Steven Gerrard or Peter Crouch exactly covered themselves with glory however, they were in good company!
On the playing front it looks like Sami Hyypia will be signing a new one year contract and well deserved too. My son is trying to learn the names of the Liverpool players and although he shares the same first name as the Finn, he can’t master the surname obstinately and unfortunately preferring to go for “Sami Hyper”! The man has been anything but that this season. Spread bets laid at the beginning over the number of games Sami would play would be looking good by now. Injuries to Carragher, every so often, and Agger, long term, have given him an unexpected, extended run in the side even though the signings of Agger and Skrtel suggested his days were numbered and alerted the likes of Fulham and Wigan. I can’t think of any time this season where Sami has really let us down. Even his own goal earlier in the season against today’s opposition was spectacular!
Meanwhile Alan Mullery and Stephane Henchoz have gone into print this week basically criticising us. Mullery’s article in The Guardian must be candidate for a children’s book of Liverpool’s 2007-08 season. For example did you know that Rafa “when you look at it” is the odd one out from Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Fergie because he hasn’t won the title? On top of this because Rafa’s spent so much money and not won it yet he will never win it. Apparently we live in an “instant society” so Rafa, at Liverpool for close on four years, could be sacked er…. instantly! Rotation is bad, bad, bad very nasty and Manchester United are very, very good because they have good players which means Liverpool are very, very bad to the point they shouldn’t even be classed as one of the top four. Who cares, drop us and call the rest the “terrific three” I couldn’t give a sh*t! At no point does Mullery or his ghost writer attempt to offer a different angle or perspective on the situation. It is the writing equivalent of painting by numbers.
Back to Everton and talking of well worn clichés, how many times will we hear the phrase “six pointer”, along with other “derby specific” ones such as “passion”, “divided families” and “Monday morning bragging rites”?
It’s been a while since the Merseyside Derby has had added significance for both teams. Probably the last time was when both us and Everton were always challenging for the title in the mid eighties. Press coverage and predictions make us favourites and Everton’s recent form, one point from six since their Euro KO, points to this. This is worrying I’d much rather us be the underdog. If we do win we will be five points ahead with six games to go. Not and insurmountable gap by any means especially as we have a worse run in and, unlike Everton, are still involved in another competition. Nonetheless it would be enough to put the pressure on David Moyes’ men which might be needed as when we are at Arsenal they entertain Derby.
One wonders if Rafa will have half an eye on other games but he really can’t afford to. This is a game we should give our full attention to. Win and life becomes a little easier, it will also be a confidence booster going into Arsenal x3 after last Sunday’s debacle.
Team wise we seem to have no injury problems although the now contrite Mascherano will be in the stocks ready to be pelted with rotten tomatoes! Presumably Lucas will step in? It’s been reported that Steve Finnan is close to a return. Will Rafa risk him? Perhaps it’s better to do it with this game than the next three, or not at all? Everton are without Cahill which is a bonus.
Prediction? I suspect it will the usual blood and thunder, (perhaps Sami will be “Hyper”?) although it will have to go some way to match the October’s dust up at Goodison. Above all after Sunday and with the next three games in mind we need to keep our heads, 2-1 to us.