Ok, I think by now we’ve established that things aren’t exactly going to plan. Even though they came sandwiched between a win in the Champions League, back to back league losses against Aston Villa and West Ham United have certainly dampened the mood around Anfield.
This early in the season, fatigue is no excuse, but things are already starting to get hairy with Championship side Middlesbrough visiting Merseyside tomorrow in the League Cup. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers brought in a significant number of reinforcements over the summer to not only help bring up the overall quality of the squad, but to give him rotation options when meetings like this rolled around. Well, with all the injuries we have, it looks like we should have signed a few more faces.
It’s not time to panic quite yet. As unnerving as last weekends 1-0 reversal at the hands of Aston Villa was, it’s easy to forget that it’s still early days. This time last season, as pointed out by Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, we were still trying to find our stride. The personal may have changed somewhat, but we’re very much in the same pattern at this stage last year.
Saying we needed to get back on track or other such clichés after the loss to Manchester City at the end of August was a bit premature; approaching the end of September though, it’s not too wide of the mark. Losing to the reigning champions is one thing, but going down to a team like the Villains, with no disrespect to them of course, is always going to require a response no matter where you are in the season — whether a certain Northern Irishman wants to admit it or not.
At this level, there are no easy games. We saw that on Saturday, didn’t we? Despite being dominant for large swathes of the match, the loss to Aston Villa was a reality check before tomorrow’s return to Fantasy Land. We might be playing a side that’s only been around since 2001, but that’s no reason to be overly optimistic.
It’s been five years since Liverpool played a Champions League match and the buzz around the club since we secured a return to Europe’s most important club competition as been nothing short of immense. Tomorrow, the long wait for another fantastic European night at Anfield comes to an end when the Reds host Bulgarian side PFC Ludogorets in their opening match of Group B — a meeting that we’re not about to take lightly.
While it’s nice that the international break is over and we can get back to proper football again, Aston Villa’s trip to Anfield couldn’t have come at a worse time for Liverpool.
Well, I suppose things could always get worse, but when you couple the Reds poor home record against the Villains with their rash of injuries, it’s just bad timing all around. Paul Lambert’s side are unbeaten in their last three matches in front of the Kop and blazed to a 2-0 lead during their last visit to Merseyside. That their hosts were able to pull a pair back to share the spoils is of course a troubling side-note, but the customary shivers and shakes before running out at Anfield won’t be quite as prevalent this time around — there’s a real belief about this side now.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has been quick to stress that this will not turn into the “Mario Balotelli show”, but it’s hard to argue that the focus — both on their own website and in the wider media — hasn’t centered around the controversial Italian since his arrival from AC Milan last week.
With the Northern Irishman hinting heavily that Super Mario could make his debut when the Reds travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday, the circus isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. The 24-year old generates headlines no matter what he does and even if he only makes a cameo appearance for the Anfield outfit, there’s little doubt that the bulk of the media attention will center around him and his first outing in the famous red shirt.