When we face off against Liverpool, we face a team that we know well, a team that spent Christmas sat on top of the league and a team, you would have to say are starting to slowly gain an identity through the footballing philosophies and ideas of manager Brendan Rodgers, a chap we all know well from his time at Chelsea.
Of course we enter the match in a pretty good position; 2 points off the top of the league and a chance to gain top spot should we gain all 3 points. I suspect Jose will set the mantra again as a game “we want to win but can’t lose” although he must cast an enviable eye towards Merseyside when, inevitably, Luis Suarez crops up into the pre-match press conference. I’m sure he must ask himself, privately, the same question any fan worth his/her salt must be asking every week this season and that is; How much better off would we be with a striker in the goal scoring form of Suarez?! Two notable 0-0 draws I feel would of almost been certainly be converted to wins with a striker Jose trusts, his line-up against Man Utd without an out-and-out Striker spoke volumes.
But Luis Suarez isn’t the only problem we face. He is their main man but, because of the way Liverpool are playing, they will pose us a different type of threat that we must contain. Against City on boxing day they passed and pressed all over the pitch, with Suarez a dynamic outlet to cause problems. Raheem Sterlings’ dis-allowed goal (clearly 2/3 yards onside) is an example that I’m sure Jose will be using to show the type of slick passing and movement Rodgers has Liverpool playing. We also need to contain and be disciplined in the middle of midfield to stop the aforementioned Sterling, Coutinho and to a degree Jordan Henderson (who seems to be relishing the absence of Steven Gerrard) the time and space to pick out those penetrating balls that could set Suarez free.
One final thought is who Jose will play up the top of his front 3. Demba, Fernando or stick with Samuel. Conventional wisdom would suggest he’ll rotate and surely that would mean Fernando will start. I remember him making his debut against Liverpool in February 2011 and we all expected him to run them ragged (former club, didn’t leave on the greatest of terms etc) and he was absolutely garbage, Jamie Carragher had a field day with him and he’s always since threatened but never delivered against his for employer, a performance like the one against Man City at the Bridge would go down a treat.
But it’ll be tight, Jose wont want to lose any ground on City or Arsenal and I suspect, even though he’s down played our chances, I think he still fancies our chances with the league, especially as everyone has been so inconsistent up to this point. Liverpool can’t be dis-counted though, both on Sunday and in terms of challenging for the league. With Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge to return, the way Brendan has they playing and the dynamic form of Suarez, they’ll have every right to feel they’re moving in the right direction.
Thanks for reading. Good luck for Sunday!