So, here we go our first major test of the season. A fixture that has yielded scant reward over the last few years, just one FA Cup win since Rafa set foot on these shores, however, as ever, hope springs eternal!
Alex Ferguson, like leafs falling off the trees in autumn and toast falling butter side down when you drop it, has treated us to his usual mind games. The target this time? Robbie Keane and whether he represents value for money. Fergie’s behaviour is so transparent and predictable that it hardly merits comment. Sadly Rafa has given the response that will get the red faced one clapping his hands gleefully when we should either be ignoring him or limiting our response to one repeated letter it’s Zzzzzzzz!
From geriatric guano to us and earlier this week the signs didn’t seem good. Although we are second in the league, and unbeaten, form hasn’t exactly buttered many parsnips! Our results after international breaks haven’t been clever and to make matters worse it seemed that Torres and possibly Gerrard would be sidelined oh and of course the £30m plus “bargain” Berbatov takes his bow for the Mancs!
However, it now seems that both Torres and Gerrard have undergone Lazarus like recoveries and are in contention to start. Said Rafa.
“They are both much better. They came through a full training session this morning. It’s important for us to have these two players of quality who can change a game.
“I’m not surprised they are available because the medical staff have done a good job and the players have been working really hard with the physios to get fit.”
Although they maybe fit there is the question as whether they are match fit? It’s a difficult decision for Rafa especially with our first Champions league fixture next week. There will be terrible pressure, due to importance of today’s game to fans, for him to pick both players. However, surely he will exercise caution with one or both? I know this might sound bad, boarding on treacherous, but I’d rather lose to the Mancs without Gerrard and Torres rather than have one, or both, break down because they have come back too soon and then be out for the five or six games. I can’t believe I’ve just written that but, for all our history with the Mancs, the season does not hinge on one game.
Team wise I guess most of the attention will be the two “main” guys but there is also the issue of Albert Riera. I don’t know if he will start and I don’t know if he is the answer to all our recent woes. One can only hope he hits the ground running as lack of width has been perceived as one of the reasons for our poor play. A very convenient peg to hang our hat on in terms of explaining the recent malaise however, I suspect it’s wider than that. The defence at times has demonstrated a worrying lack of organisation almost bordering on panic at times and perhaps there is a need to support each other throughout the team? I don’t know, I’m not on the inside, but Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard have all commented on the need for improvement and that they are sure things with eventually turn around. Well now is the time to step up to the plate?
Rafa is aware of this, and of course the role fans can play.
“Clearly, it is always important for the players to feel that they have the support of the fans, especially on big occasions like this. If the fans can create an atmosphere like a European night then that would be better for us. But it is important to remember that our fans are always behind us so we cannot ask for any more. The most important thing is that we get it right on the pitch and I can promise the fans that we will try to do our best for them.”
It’s rumored that George Gillett will be attending today and although I’ve no doubt there will be protests, and rightly so, this must not detract from the main priority which is supporting the team. These men are not worth that.
Prediction? So, so, so difficult to call because of our underperformance so far and Gerrard and Torres’ fitness. Liverpool have not suddenly become a bad side over the summer so let’s hope they recreate the form we know they are capable of. If we do, then why shouldn’t we win?
2-1 and wouldn’t it be wonderful if Robbie Keane, in the light of Fergies comments, chose today to break his scoring duck?