There’s no time to get our affairs in order after a busy, not so productive week. A hard fought win at Queens Park Rangers, a spanking at the hands of reigning European champions Real Madrid and a scoreless draw at home to Hull City saw Liverpool’s confidence take even more of a battering going into Tuesday’s League Cup clash with Swansea City.
As if we didn’t have enough problems; throw a few more fit bodies into our mix and at least one striker bordering on being in form and then, maybe, things aren’t so bad. Crying about a busy schedule after you spent the last five years moping over missing out on Champions League football is bang out of order, but when you’re not playing well, you want to space things out a bit and get some time off the pitch to sort out what ails you. Unfortunately, that’s not about to happen any time soon.
Hopefully, this is something we can work out in front of the Kop; although it ended scoreless, we saw welcome signs of life over the last half an hour of the draw with the Tigers. Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, who has doggedly stuck to playing Mario Balotelli as a lone striker since Daniel Sturridge hit the treatment table, introduced Rickie Lambert from the bench to partner the embattled Italian and the entire side looked all the better for it.
There’s no sense arguing that the whole revival came on the back of the former Southampton man with Philippe Coutinho putting in a lively cameo performance as well, but the change was plain enough for anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of how the game is played to see. While it’s unlikely we’ll see the two of them begin to form an interim partnership come Tuesday with Rodgers likely to hand Lambert a starting berth and rotate Balotelli to the bench, the Northern Irishman continues to throw his backing behind the 24-year old — on paper at least.
“Sometimes with players if it’s not going so well they have a day where they don’t train or don’t work, but he puts himself out to train every single day,” said the Liverpool boss when asked about Balotelli’s performance. “He is out there wanting to be better, wanting to improve. He kept going, kept getting into the areas. Goalscorers will tell you they get their energy from the ball hitting the back of the net and it is just not happening for him, but all I ask is they do their best.”
Even though he’s unlikely to play, the Italian will continue to suck up the headlines in the days to come while Wilfried Bony — one of the rumoured targets for the Anfield outfit over the summer — continues to score goals. The Ivory Coast international struck twice during the Swans win over newly promoted Leicester City following the Reds draw with Hull City as the Welsh side arrested a serious slump in form to climb level on points with their hosts on Tuesday.
Rotation could very well be the name of the game for Swansea boss Garry Monk when he squares off against his old boss in the Cup, but for now anyway, he’s just happy to end a five match winless run. “The goals that we scored were very good goals and warranted the three points,” said the ex-defender in the run in to Tuesdays meeting. “All of the players are contributing well. After a harsh few weeks, they got their just rewards with a clean sheet and two goals.”
A clean sheet and two goals? If you’re a Liverpool supporter, not only does that result sound like a little slice of heaven right about now, there’s also a good possibility that you’ve got other things on your mind beside the Swans coming to town. When you’ve got a a trip to the Santiago Bernabéu sandwiched between a trip to Newcastle United and playing host to Premier League pacesetters Chelsea, a midweek meeting with Monk’s men gets the volume turned way down.
I hate to play down the importance of this match and what it could do for our confidence level, but there won’t be too many teary eyes if we either progress or drop out of the League Cup on Tuesday without any significant wear and tear to the players we’ve been able to keep fit. Like I said earlier, a few more bodies and a striker who’s on point and we’re in this to win it; sadly, that’s not the case. At the risk of sounding arrogant, we’ve got other things on the mind.