Just a tiny, tiny chance to reach top four is what remains for Liverpool as the Premier League season is nearing it´s conclusion. The Reds are seven points behind Manchester City in fourth but we have a game in hand. Liverpool will probabaly need to win the final six games, or at least collect 16 points, to have chance to leapfrog City. For starters we must beat West Bromwich away today.
When Liverpool limped out of the FA Cup a week ago the season quickly whittled down to hardly any importance. Just an almost hopeless fight to land in a Champions League spot remains. And it will take a remarkably bad run-in for Man City for us to have chance to catch them. Okay, they are a bit out of form but their programme is not too tough and three of their fixtures are at home and at Etihad City seldom drop points. If Liverpool manage to amass 16 points, five wins and one draw, then City need just nine points to land ahead of us. Their superior goal-difference will in that case be the deciding factor.
But for us to grab 16 points, with our performance versus Aston Villa in mind, is not likely. At the same time it´s quite probable that City pick up more than nine points. So in reality our only aim is to be professional, play with pride and end well as a stepping stone for next season.
The match against West Brom will be another tough test, just as every game in the division. The Baggies are currently in 13th place with 36 points, a tally that more often than not is enough to stay up. In fact West Brom landed safe last season on 36 points, three above the relegation zone. So they don´t need to play with desperation against Liverpool and that should mean an easier proposition for the Reds. Not much, but a little. Hopefully West Brom is a bit cautious and not so aggressive, letting us play. Apparently Liverpool need that extra second to be able to create effective attacking play.
Statistics predicts an even battle. In the last nine league games the teams have four wins apiece. At The Hawthorns Liverpool has never won with Brendan Rodgers at the helm. One defeat and a draw last season is the record. This time a victory is a must otherwise the slim hope of top four evaporate into thin air and a scramble for Europa League places beckons instead.
After the rotten display against Aston Villa Liverpool owe the fans an excellent and dominant performance today. A two goal win is minimum requirement to wipe out some of the gloom from last Sunday.
This is the team I would pick for the 33rd league game (in a 4-3-3 system):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Glen Johnson. CB: Martin Skrtel. CB: Dejan Lovren. LB: Alberto Moreno. DM: Emre Can. RM: Jordan Henderson. LM: Adam Lallana. RF: Jordon Ibe. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
The 3-4-3 system is not working right now and should be scrapped for the rest of the campaign. Neither Johnson nor Moreno has been playing particularly well but are our best options at fullback. Lovren is hardly better than Kolo Toure at the moment but I still believe the Croat can be a stable defender. He needs playtime to prove it.
In midfield Joe Allen needs a rest. Lucas is injured and perhaps Lallana is not fit enough to start, then Steven Gerrard should step in. He was awful against Aston Villa and seem to have lost all inspiration. But he can hardly play as badly again.
The front line of Ibe, Sterling, Coutinho is the best we can field. Daniel Sturridge is out injured and even if he was fit his current form doesn´t warrant a starting place. Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini is not good enough for Liverpool and there is no point playing them as they probably will be shipped out in the summer.
A game away to West Brom is nothing to get the blood rush in normal circumstances, even less now. But I will be watching and hoping for a nice showing as:
We Go Again.