Despite being in an excellent run of form, Liverpool are still playing catch-up in the race for Champions League football — now, at the risk of sounding like one of the dozen broken records out there, this makes the match against Southampton on Sunday crucial to our chances of finishing in the top four.
While we may be able to sneak in to Europe’s most prestigious club competition through the back-door if we win the Europa League, that remains an option that we don’t want to rely upon. Securing a trophy and another season under the bright lights was always the aim, but you’d do well to find a Kopite that doesn’t want to see us gate-crash our way up the table, leaving a trail of battered bodies and busted nets in our wake.
Liverpool will have no better chance to close the gap on fellow Champions League chasers Tottenham Hotspur than when the two sides face-off tomorrow under the bright lights of Anfield.
After both sides shook off their shaky early season form, they’ve now very much hit their stride and conversations about assaulting the continent next season sound more realistic than ever before. Holding a four point lead over their hosts going into this one, Spurs — who have found trips to Merseyside bothersome as of late — will likely be content to snag a point for their troubles, though three is always a better return. The Reds, on the other hand, don’t exactly have that luxury and will need to get the full bang for their buck if they want to keep pace in a race that’s not about to get any easier.
When faced the conundrum of previewing the derby, one has to ask themselves what can be written about it that hasn’t already? The answer, inevitably, is nothing, but when a player who has dominated this fixture for the past ten years is set to make his final appearance, it’s at least a bit easier to find a focus.
Heading into his 33rd — and supposedly final — appearance in the Merseyside Derby, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will finally get to wave goodbye to Goodison Park before leaving the Reds in the summer for a stint with Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy. There’s been more highs than there have lows during the Whiston born and bred midfielder’s short trips across Stanley Park and he’ll be hoping there’s no change in that narrative come Saturday. This, at the end of the day, is just another match.
Despite narrowly missing out on a trip to Wembley after crashing out of the League Cup earlier this week, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has stuck by his objectives for the season: qualify for the Champions League and snag a piece of silverware.
With his side still alive in two cup competitions, there’s still hope that the Anfield outfit will be able to give Steven Gerrard one last trophy to lift before he leaves for the LA Galaxy in the summer. With the Europa League set to resume in February and an FA Cup fourth round replay with Championship side Bolton Wanderers just around the corner, there’s still lots of time to dream about winning cups, but if they want to achieve both of their goals their going to have to shift their focus back to the league real quick with West Ham United — a rival for a European spot — visiting Merseyside tomorrow.
Although Liverpool have found themselves in a good run of form as of late, it’s still a bit too early to get excited about their climb up the table. The Reds go into tomorrow’s meeting with Aston Villa only five points out of the Champions League places, but competition remains stiff for a spot in Europe’s premier club competition — so, nothing new there.
Outside of the top two spots, there’s a points pile-up with at least six clubs realistically in the battle for third and fourth place. The traditional gap between the top and the bottom has started to narrow over the last couple of seasons and that trend has continued in earnest this year with the likes of Southampton and West Ham United mixing it up in the upper echelons of the table. A slow start to the campaign saw Brendan Rodgers side all but ruled out of the race, but a steady string of results is putting them back in the picture, though they’ll have to right some early season wrongs if they’re going to keep up the charge.