Recently people have regarded cup competitions, in our case the Europa League, and the Premiership as two conflicting priorities, ie, that progress in one might hinder the other.
God knows how those responsible for balancing these two would manage in the real world and it’s not as if wining two trophies in one season has ever been done before in the world of football is it? Those of you reading this blog who are fortunate enough to be employed clearly have no concept of juggling a number of responsibilities! Anyway clearly I’m out of order as this is the bizarre and unrealistic world of football, real life is irrelevant! Leaving all that aside anyone connected with Liverpool would love to see us win the Europa League AND get as high as we can in the Premiership. This is not an unrealistic view so it was good to learn that Rafa also views simultaneous involvement as a positive thing
“I am delighted with the character we showed on Thursday because I think it was important going into the final stages of the season… the confidence was maybe a problem earlier in the season, but we have that back again now and that will be very important for us to handle situations at a very important stage. It will certainly help us overcome things if we have to”
Of course there is the worry that long European trips can effect performances in the league the following weekend. However, thankfully, we face Lille in the next round, a short hop over the Channel, which can only help things and I guess the further we get in the competition the more we will get used to it, get the bit between our teeth and hopefully that can only be good for our league form?
Anyway I digress, back to league duty as Blackburn roll into town which sees Sam Allardyce pitted against Rafa once more. So cue the moan from the opposition manager. This seems to happen with every game since the first time the managers clashed in 2004 when Allardyce was at Bolton. We lost on that night and Rafa said a few things about Bolton’s style of play. I’d venture to suggest that this was hardly a massive faux pax and perhaps something that a more reasonably minded and magnanimous opposition manager would have understood as nothing personal but just disappointment at the defeat. However, Allardyce, with the memory and hide of elephant, still trumpets on and on about it even though the game was roughly six years ago – people have served less time for murder!
“I have no worries about what he thinks of me or my team. The most important thing to me is we can beat them on any given date and we know we can beat them because I did it at the Reebok…. because he (Rafa) didn’t like it he found an excuse about how we played. Wenger did it, Mourinho did it; they all do it when they get their backside smacked. That will get him moaning about me again but I am not bothered.”
If Sam isn’t “bothered” than why bring it up every time we are due to meet? Just like Fergie’s rants Allardyce’s “put upon” moans just before a game are tediously predictable. Unlike Fergie’s rants, which are just pure wind up, Allardyce’s reek of “fake to make” ie. to cover up his own inabilitys as a top flight manager. His boast about his sides being able to beat us on any given date just does not stack up and just what does he mean by that? If you can beat us on any day Sam then do it! Sadly Allardyce’s record against us does not back such foolhardy comments. Since that defeat at the Reebok six years ago we have had the upper hand as I suspect the other so called top four clubs have. No doubt there are other examples but since his rants against us Allardyce has managed three clubs so going through the years of just this blog I seem to remember a 3-0 win against Bolton on New Years day 2007, then there was a 5-1 humiliation against Newcastle in 2008 and oh let’s settle for 4-0 win at Anfield against Blackburn in 2009 ……….. Sam, if that’s what you interpret as your team smacking our backside then here’s my ar*e and here’s a stick!
On to the more engaging and serious issue of the game. We will now be without Martin Srktel who broke his foot in Romania and, with Kyrgiakos still suspended, Rafa will need to shuffle the back four. Perhaps Carragher will move back into the centre and Degen, or even Kelly, will slot into the full back role? I really hope it is Kelly, I was impressed by him when he played for us in the Champions League against Lyon and this would be an ideal game for him to have a run out and gain some more experience?
Elsewhere, and congratulations to Steven Gerrard, who scored his 33rd European goal on Thursday. This ensured he overtook Alan Shearer as this country’s record European scorer. This was surprising to me as I didn’t think “Mary Poppins” had played that often in Europe! However, more relevantly Gerrard took the opportunity to speak of the need to be a bit more ruthless in the final third of the pitch
“It was slightly worrying that we were not creating enough chances in recent matches… but that’s what made the performance against Unirea so pleasing. Now we’ve got to get the balance right between now and the end of the season. We’ve got to be good defensively but have a bit of bottle and be a bit risky in the final third as well. You have got to keep making chances.”
Gerrard then spoke about how his form is improving since recovering from injury. Add to that the imminent return of Torres, Benayoun and then Ryan Babel who perhaps, and I say this cautiously, is showing signs of improvement then hopefully we will become more potent? A repeat of the 3-1 win at Ewood or, better still, the 4-0 win at Anfield we managed last season (bottom truly smacked Sam!) certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
Prediction? Hopefully we can shake off any fatigue from Thursday and make our move. I take us to do just that by 2-0.
By the way this blog now has a full index of match reports since it started in October 2006 so for machinations of previous games, against Blackburn Rovers since this date click here.
Enjoy the game.