It wasn’t pretty, but the boys got the job done last Sunday with the 5-3 victory at the Britannia. It’s true that they certainly have some issues on defense and it sure would be nice to see Mignolet get a clean sheet once in awhile. There’s been a lot of negative feedback insisting that Liverpool needs to shore up the defense if they want to reach their goal of a top 4 spot. I’m not in disagreement, but let’s look at the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be positive about when it comes to Liverpool Football Club. First and foremost is the return of Daniel Sturridge. How sweet was it to see Luis Suarez’s goal celebration after getting such a sublime assist from Sturridge? I could almost hear him tell his compadre “welcome back, I’ve missed you” through the television speakers. Then there was the clinching goal itself, with such a fantastic second effort and skill that is scaring defenders all across England. It’s exciting to think about the return of SaS and the havoc that will be wreaked in the coming fixtures. When you look at this result from the “big picture” point-of-view, there is even more room to be positive. Before last week, the Potters had lost only one home fixture all season long. Which powerhouse club grabbed those three points, you ask? The mighty canaries of Norwich City pulled off the 1-0 victory on September 29. Manchester City couldn’t muster any goals in their 0-0 draw and Everton recently lucked into a point with a stoppage time penalty to secure a 1-1 draw on New Year’s Day. Chelsea dropped all three points with their 3-2 defeat back in December. So with one of the better home records in the entire BPL, suddenly the three points Liverpool earned last week look that much more important. I don’t know about you, but I personally am looking forward to that February 1st fixture when Manchester United walks into that stronghold and watch the likes of Liverpool’s Assaidi put a few in the back of the net against the Red Devils.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the Reds return to Merseyside to face an intriguing Aston Villa squad. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the Villains sit in the bottom half of the table only five points clear of the relegation zone. They are still a dangerous team with the same Christian Benteke up front that came to Anfield a year ago to break our hearts. They looked diabolically abysmal through the first 75 minutes against Arsenal on Monday, yet somehow managed to turn it around and almost equalized late at the Emirates. This fixture comes at an interesting time for Liverpool. It could be considered what we Americans call a “trap game” where the team looks past a supposedly-inferior team in anticipation of a bigger challenge the following week. And what a tasty fixture is up next on the BPL schedule when Everton cross Stanley Park to Anfield. That’s a game where the Reds most certainly are looking forward to avenge the highway robbery that took place at Goodison only two months prior. LFC must keep their focus. Looking past a team like Villa may have happened last season and seasons before that. Not this Liverpool team. Steven Gerrard won’t let that happen. Brendan Rodgers can’t let that happen. Furthermore, the FA have been generous enough to squeeze in a nice trip to the coast in the 4th Round of the FA Cup for a match against lower-tier AFC Bournemouth before the Merseyside derby on January 28th. All things considered, I think we can expect to see the lads firing on all cylinders this Saturday.
Personally I am quite intrigued to see what transpires on Saturday. Do we see Sturridge return to the starting XI? If so, at whose expense? My money would be Raheem Sterling to give him a little rest. Remember how Rodgers had overused him a year ago and he was shelved in the spring? I think his legs are more valuable at full strength down the stretch and any chance to preserve him should be taken. Does Gerrard go back to attacking midfielder while Lucas returns to holding midfielder? It was an interesting experiment to witness them swap roles against Stoke, and perhaps that can be a new tactic for Rodgers to deploy later in the season. We shall see. Can the defense step up and rebuild the fortress that once was? Martin Skrtel has been steadily declining (I honestly am just waiting for that one referee with the courage to finally award a penalty against him on a set piece), Cissokho has been a disappointment, and both Agger and Sakho are questionable to return. Someone needs to step up and tell us that they are worthy to call themselves a Liverpool defender in it for the long haul. Will Mignolet return to the sharpness that made him the Liverpool’s first player of the month this campaign? Or will he let in another goal that blows up my twitter feed with snarky comments about how he should’ve saved that one? There are so many questions that I can’t wait to see answered. One thing I know for sure is that you can find me enjoying a pint of Guinness at the London Bridge Pub to watch it all unfold in front of me. Hope to see you there.