League Cup? Who cares? Well, Liverpool should, it´s the only realistic chance of silverware this season. So a win against Bournemouth at Goldsands Stadium (or Dean Court) this evening is a must.
After a feeble first half of the season Liverpool has wasted almost every chance of success. The Reds can´t win the Premier league and not the Champions League. A top four spot is seven points adrift and probably out of reach. We are in the Europa League but will hardly go all the way. That leaves the League Cup and FA Cup to aim for. The latter is tougher to win than the League Cup because PL teams regard it as more prestigous and therefore our chance of lifting that trophy is slim. The only silverware left to hope for is the League Cup.
Yes, I know, a lot of fans regard it as a pointless competition. And that´s true to some degree. Nobody remembers a League Cup winner.
But this time it means something to Liverpool. Winning a trophy and to play at Wembley is of course always nice. But for The Reds it would be important for another reason. Due to this season´s failure on almost every front a string of good results and a trophy at the end would get the winning feeling back. A that is a rare commodity at Anfield right now and a neccessity to have to make sure that next season doesn´t fizzle out and away as this one has done.
To pick up the League Cup three hurdles need to be forced. First up is AFC Bournemouth tonight in the quarter final. It will certainly be a trying test at the south coast. The home side is table toppers in the Championship and in great form. They´ve played eleven league games in a row without defeat and eight of the matches are wins. This include an 8-0 victory away to Birmingham and a few days ago Bournemouth ran out 5-3 winners versus Cardiff. They know how to score, so far 44 goals in 21 matches, so a shaky Liverpool defence is in for a tough task.
Perhaps we can take heart from our 2-0 win in the FA Cup at the same venue just eleven months ago. Liverpool and Bournemouth has in fact only met five times in history, all in the FA Cup. The Reds has won three of the encounters two of them being replays after initial draws at Bournemouth.
But to win Liverpool need to improve massively compared to our latest performances. Defeat against Manchester United, a devastating 1-1 draw with Basel and a 0-0 stalemate against Sunderland adds up to three bad displays and disappointing results in a row. Time for a change now. A sea change.
Liverpool owe the fans a showing full of running, hard work and aggression. Because if the actual play refuses to work, as it has in recent times, then it´s back to basics, in other words give it all physically. If a team does that then it´s a chance the effective football can return. So that must be the recipe for Liverpool tonight. Outfight Bournemouth is the way, at the moment we are not good enough to outplay them. But at the same time we should try to and be able to dominate the ball and the game and attack enough to secure the win.
If we are to succeed then we are in the semi final draw together with Chelsea, Sheffield United and the winners in the other clash tonight, Tottenham or Newcastle. Chelsea would be a tough nut to crack in the two-legged semifinal but the other teams a bit easier in the quest for an outing at Wembley.
So, on paper the League Cup tussle versus Bournemouth is just a distraction and a warm-up for the league clash with Arsenal on Sunday but in reality probably the most important game for Liverpool this season.
I would pick a strong and attack-minded line-up for this one, as follows:
GK: Brad Jones. RB: Javier Manquillo. CB: Martin Skrtel. CB: Kolo Toure. LB: Alberto Moreno. DM: Lucas Leiva. RM: Lazar Markovic. CM: Steven Gerrard. LM: Philippe Coutinho. AM: Adam Lallana. CF: Fabio Borini.
I would rest Raheem Sterling, he surely needs it. Markovic has showed some promise lately and is an adequate replacement. He is also an unknown quantity to the opponents and could be our surprise package. Coutinho has been ineffective as a central attacking midfielder lately and I think he can offer more cutting in from the left. Lallana is not used to play on the top of a diamond midfield but I believe his ball skills and trickery can be useful there. Both Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli are out injured and Rickie Lambert has not impressed one little bit so it´s time for Borini to get a chance to shine.
I don´t believe for a second that it will be an easy game for Liverpool. Quite the contrary, and I would happily settle for a penalty shoot-out win as:
We Go Again.