A Season Defining Match At The Ethiad Awaits
By Dave Turner – @DTurnerSports
In the great scheme of things, Saturday’s clash with top-of-the-table Manchester City is just another Premier League fixture, but in truth, this is a enormous clash that features a Liverpool side that are desperate for a strong showing against a quality side.
Following a putrid effort in a 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace before the international break, the taste of that bitter defeat is still prominent in the mouths of both the squad and supporters alike. For a Liverpool side that still has dreams of a top-four finish, losing from the welcoming confines of Anfield to a club that the Reds SHOULD be better than is unacceptable.
The fact is, it was the first time that the squad had come up on the short end of a result under Jurgen Klopp, but with that defeat, the honeymoon period with “The Normal One” has quickly gone. Now, Klopp is set to face his stiffest opponent to date as the manager of LFC.
1. Relax, it’s just one fixture, how important can it really be?
Alright, i’ll admit that in the great scheme of things, the season could take a turn in either direction regardless of the result against City, but I really don’t think that’s the case. With a loss, almost all of the good feeling associated with the hiring of Klopp will be gone and it’ll be much the same case as with Brendan Rodgers, just a mediocre side, plodding away within the purgatory known as the middle of the Premier League table. Sure, bigger and better things are expected of this club, but right now they’re in 10th place for a reason and with a loss, they could fall to 12th place. Certainly not what anyone had envisioned coming into the year, regardless of if you believed this team was top-four worthy.
The January transfer window is just about five weeks away and if the team is toiling away within the league table, make no mistake, there will be changes to the squad once the transfer window opens. Yes, changes are an inevitability with Klopp trying to find his brand of players (and maybe, dare I say, a winger) to compliment his style. Logical thinking would be that most of those roster moves would be made over the summer, when the prices for such players will be more reasonable and the squad will have the luxury of preseason training to find some cohesiveness.
Being active during the January transfer window will result in the overpaying for players. While sometimes money can’t be an issue in the pursuit of talent that can help the team win, considering how much money the transfer committee allocated to Brendan Rodgers this offseason, it would be hard to imagine them being overly excited with reaching deep into the pockets for a player or two to try and save their team from a unceremonious finish. The fact is, this team may overreact to their place in the standings, as well as their extremely underwhelming performances in the Europa league and overpay for someone who will have to quickly come in and mesh with the current roster to make an impact.
A loss here will be just another tumultuous page to what has been an already trying season. Though there are plenty of matches still to play, Liverpool will likely head into the new year with the top end of the table off in the distance.
2. Okay, enough of the doom and gloom, what if they win?
A win, in any sort of fashion would be a monumental victory for the embattled Reds. Any win at the Ethiad is big, but beating City while they sit atop the table could be a win that catapults this team forward. To win, they’ll need a quality performance first from Dejan Lovren, who’s taking over at center back for the injured Mahmadou Sahko. Lovren has been very shaky at times and he’ll be tested greatly against a dangerous City attack. If the Reds are to stay in this match, he’ll need to hold the line.
Three key contributors for City will be out as well, with Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony all out of action. It’ll certainly take a brilliant finish (or two, or three?!) to come away with three points. We’ve seen some masterful play from the likes of Phillippe Coutinho, but it may very well take some great counterattacking speed to produce a goal (looking at you, Jordan Ibe.)
Regardless of injuries, or even the uninspiring effort from both sides in their last Premier League fixtures, it’ll take nothing short of a herculean effort for Liverpool to emerge from this one with three points. Realistically, a draw wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that this team is going to have to start collecting points in bunches if they expect to move up into good position within the table.
If they’re able to win, it’ll say a lot about Jurgen Klopp’s ability to get this team back on track following a loss and for the team, being that they’ll demonstrate the ability to play with what has been to this point, the best side the EPL has to offer. A result here could propel this team into the winter months with confidence, something they’ve been lacking throughout the season. With a long string of “winnable” contests that stretches into the new year, perhaps now is the time that the Reds start the charge up the table.
- The football world rallying around the French – Beautiful scene from the friendly between England and France. I know that a football match can seem trivial in the wake of such a horrific event, but sometimes the release of sport is what some need to begin to heal.
- Jordan Ibe – Love the raw ability that we’re beginning to see from him. He plays with pace and can be a catalyst from the wing. If he’s able to take steps forward over the next few months, he may make the loss of Raheem Sterling a distant afterthought. Really like his play, of late.
- Daniel Sturridge Returning – Okay, so by this time next week he’ll have another injury, but for now, it’s a great thing that No.15 is back. There’s no doubt that he makes this side more dangerous, even if he does end up being used more as a sub.
- Emre Can – Remember when Jurgen Klopp came in and people thought that his fellow countryman would bring out the best in the young midfielder? That hasn’t been the case yet. Can has looked slow and unsure on the ball at time and his lack of pace doesn’t quite seem to fit in. He’s still young, with time to improve, but it hasn’t been easy for Can as of late.
- Martin Skrtel – Nothing that Skrtel has done wrong, but without Sahko in the lineup, he’ll have to be that much better controlling the back line. He’ll have little to no room for error and if he tries to overextend himself to make up for any deficiencies that Lovren has, it could be disastrous. It’s a tough task for him.
- Simon Mignolet – Amazing that he still holds the most clean sheets in the EPL for the calendar year of 2015. He was shaky against Crystal Palace, in what seems to be an all too often occurrence. His clearances at times, are dreadful. He’s got to be thinking that Klopp will get his own man in goal if Mignolet can’t pick up his play.