You’d think that Liverpool would have some sort of advantage running out in a League Cup quarter-final against a side plying their trade in the Championship, but with the Reds recent results contrasting greatly to those of their lower league hosts, there won’t be anything easy about it.
While the Anfield outfit was coming up scoreless in the draw with Sunderland and the loss away to bitter rivals Manchester United, the Cherries were carrying on a twelve match unbeaten run that’s seen them put five past recently relegated Cardiff City, sneak past perennial challengers Wolves and hold a gritty Millwall side to a 2-2 draw. You may be able to pass that off as Championship clubs playing Championship football, but to be fair, our standard hasn’t been all that much higher.
As much as this is being billed as a do or die showdown, that’s only true for one team. Going into Tuesday’s meeting with FC Basel at Anfield, in what could very well be Liverpool’s last Champions League match this season, the fact that the Swiss side don’t have to come out on top to progress to the knock-out stages hangs like a ghastly spectre in the air.
When you take into account the Reds scoreless draw with Sunderland at the weekend, it only exacerbates this point. The visitors, who have been tight at the back and quick on the counter-attack, don’t have to come out of their shell away from home and look for a goal; they don’t have to win, they just can’t lose, and that’s a major problem for us.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers goes into tomorrow’s meeting with Sunderland with a number of questions hanging over his head — and for the first time in over a month, none of them will have to do with whether or not his side have a chance of taking full points against or if this is the match that ends up getting him the sack.
Coming off back to back wins against Stoke City and Leicester City, the Reds go into their third match in the span of a week looking to continue their ascent up the table, but with the spectre of a do or die meeting with FC Basel in the Champions League midweek just over the horizon. Anything but a win against the Swiss club will see the Anfield outfit drop out of the competition they missed so dearly during their five year absence, so the question now becomes what matters more: domestic pride or European progression?
I think I’d be justified in saying that, after the events of last season anyway, I hate Selhurst Park. There’s no way to talk about Liverpool visiting Crystal Palace without talking about the last time we took a trip there, so let’s just get that out of the way, shall we?
With the title seemingly in our grasp, we chucked away a three goal lead to all but hand Manchester City their second title in only three years. Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea the week before may have been tagged for all eternity as the seminal moment that our title chances squirmed through our fingers, but if you ask me, that Monday night in London was really where the dream truly died. Did I mention how much I hate Selhurst Park?
As far as football fans go, there’s always been a fine line between being defeatist and being delusional; with sections of our support betting that Real Madrid, in fine fashion, are going to topple Liverpool tomorrow night in the Champions League, you have to wonder how many are actually going to bother watching the Reds run out in Spain.
Maybe that sounds like a terribly negative thing to say, but if I knew without question that they were going to get spanked, to be honest, I’d just swerve it all together. There’s no joy to be had in playing some cosmic game of “I told you so” — at least not for me, but thankfully I lack the prescience of the aforementioned anointed few, so I’m going to roll the dice on this one and put the match on the ol’ boob-tube, because we have a shot at picking up some points.