Last season Liverpool had no European football to deal with. We fought for the title and ended up in second place. Should we make sure to drop enough points now in the four remaining league matches to finish in seventh place and be without the European games next season and then perhaps once more be in a title fight? If so, then we should let strugglers QPR beat us at Anfield today. Sadly it´s not as easy as that to get into a battle for the major silverware.
A reigning opinion among some managers and so called experts is that Liverpool managed a title push last season because we had a lot fewer matches than the opponents and therefore could rest more and always be fresh in the league. Another common point of view is that the title assault was due to a certain guy called Luis Suarez and I am inclined to agree more with that. So even if Liverpool would lack European commitment next campaign there is no guarantee that we will be among the teams gunning for the Premier League trophy.
To be able to end our 26 year title drought we need two or three super signings in the summer, especially a striker who can score 30 goals, keep himself injury-free and create a lot on his own. There aren´t many of those players around, but that is what we need. Without such an acquisition Liverpool can forget about another tilt at the biggest domestic prize. The current crop of players aren´t good enough to overcome all the other big guns in the same season, maybe one, perhaps two, but not all four of them. I am of course talking about Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal. But with a Suarez kind of player it´s possible to get near, and even beyond, we saw that last season.
If Liverpool against the odds succeed to lure one or two superstars to Anfield then a schedule without European games would benefit a title charge. The problem is no top players want to sign for a club which has finished seventh and because of that appear to be far from qualifying for the Champions League in the near future. Furthermore, Europe League isn´t anything top players are intrigued by - should we finish 5th or 6th.
So Liverpool is in a fix. If we finish in seventh place, outisde European places, we have to make do with the current squad next season and perhaps some new names, but not of star quality. But perhaps we have a better chance to reach top four than if we finish fifth and must engage in Europa League. But a fifth position can possible make quality players at least think about coming to Anfield since we almost made it to the CL positions and obviously have the potential to do so.
I guess the best thing is to let things take care of themselves and always try to win the match in front of you. As the Reds should do today. QPR is currently in 19th place, four points behind Leicester in 17th, just above the relegation zone. The Londoners must grab about eight points in their last four fixtures to avoid the drop. So they will give everything to win at L4.
Liverpool has missed out on every target this season, top four finish was the last one to vanish, and appears to be really downhearted. The only thing we can hope for this afternoon is that our quality will shine through and give us a narrow win versus QPR. A 1-0 home victory has been the result at Anfield in the last three meetings with QPR. I could live with another one.
Now that the season has petered out it could be time for some new names to get their chance. I would line-up like this today (in a 4-4-2 diamond formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Javier Manquillo. CB: Martin Skrtel. CB: Dejan Lovren. LB: Alberto Moreno. DM: Emre Can. RM: Cameron Brannagan. LM: Adam Lallana. AM: Philippe Coutinho. CF: Samed Yesil. CF: Jordon Ibe.
Cameron Brannagan has been in the squad a couple of times and it´s time to give him a chance to start. He will be 19 in a week´s time and a debut in a red shirt would be the perfect birthday gift. Samed Yesil has been plagued by injuries for a long time but is now back scoring goals in the U21 team. It would be interesting to see if the 20 year-old striker, soon 21, can be more lethal than his misfiring teammates.
As you can see I would bench Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, Lazar Markovic, Glen Johnson, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli. None of them has lived up to required standard this season. They must realize that a place in a Liverpool team is not a God given thing, it´s something you have to fight for like mad - everyday. Just one more thing:
We Go Again.