In a week’s time we’ve gone from having an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League to looking over our shoulders and battling to hang on to a spot in next season’s Europa League. That’s what happens when your form takes a dip in the business end of the campaign.
It’s all well and good to make a charge for the top when the finish line is still miles away, it’s another thing to have the mettle to dig deep and push through the wall when the checkered flag in sight; Liverpool obviously haven’t done that. Elimination from the FA Cup at Wembley, a boring draw with West Bromwich Albion last weekend and another sour performance at the KC Stadium on Tuesday has left the Reds road weary. They’ll look to bounce back within the safe confines of Anfield when they square off with Queens Park Rangers this weekend, but that won’t exactly be easy.
If you can forget, if only for a moment, that Liverpool have amassed only a single point against relegation threatened opposition in their last two matches you’ve done a bit better than me and you might not be all too worried about facing another one on Saturday. That being said, the Hoops — unlike their hosts for the weekend — have actually looked a bit better away from Loftus Road with their last two forays out into the world earning them a win and a draw.
Maybe that’s not the kind of form that snags headlines, but when you’re staring at the abyss that is the Championship, every little bit helps. Charlie Austin saw his penalty saved and Richard Dunne had the ball in the net before it was waved no good for a foul in the build-up as Chris Ramsey’s side narrowly missed out on a deserved win against West Ham United last time out — something they’ll be looking to avoid when they visit Anfield. A win against one of the big boys would not only give them a leg-up in the dog fight at the bottom of the table, but with matches against Manchester City as well as fellow strugglers Leicester City and Newcastle United on the docket before the campaign draws to a close, it’ll put a much-needed feather in their cap as well.
If he wants to add a splash of color to his headwear, the Rangers boss is going to have to figure out how to contend with injuries to a number of key players with Bobby Zamora almost certain to miss out, Rio Ferdinand still crocked and the likes of Armand Traore, Eduardo Vargas and Michael Doughty all occupying a place on the treatment table, though he should have Leroy Fer, Adel Taarabt and Yun Suk-Young back and fighting for a place in the starting eleven.
Under normal circumstances you wouldn’t expect Liverpool to be all that worried about QPR coming to town, but with their goal drought really starting to take its toll, they could be in for some problems if they fall behind. Steven Gerrard could help out in that department with the 34-year old almost certain to start in what will be his penultimate match at Anfield before leaving for the MLS this summer and there’s no question that the long serving skipper will be looking to go out with his name on the score-sheet.
Jon Flanagan added his name back to the injury list alongside Daniel Sturridge and Mamadou Sakho after the youngster had his third knee operation this season, and they could be joined on the sidelines by Mario Balotelli after the Italian striker gashed his foot in the defeat to Hull City. On the positive side, both Lucas and Alberto Moreno returned to full training yesterday and could be fit enough to start on Saturday, though neither of them will do much to end our barren spell in front of the net.
At this point, that’s exactly what we need. After failing to capitalize on their match in hand or Manchester United’s slip-up against Everton, the Reds will feel the eyes of Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton burning into their backs as they look to leapfrog them into fifth place and a guaranteed spot in next year’s Europa League. To be fair though, if we can’t bag a goal or two against a side sitting second from the bottom, maybe missing out on off-brand European football would save us some embarrassment — I think we’ve had enough blushes for one season, don’t you?