A few days ago, Liverpool lined up against Real Madrid at the illustrious Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in what would turn out to be a special but in the end, a fruitless night. Liverpool could only muster up 4 shots at Iker Casillas’ goal and to make things even bleaker, could only conjure up one shot on target. While this might seem abject and even catastrophic, there were lots of positives to get out of the game and the performance was infinitely better than the ones in recent memory. I make this observation on the fact that I believed once again. I believed that Liverpool could win, even against the best side in the world and there seemed to be light at the end of the long and dark tunnel that this season is turning out to be. While others most definitely might not feel this way, this game could spark resurgence and resurrect the giant of last season. But, as is constantly reminded, you are only as good as your last game and the truth is that the team could not get the points and in a results-based business, that is all that matters. Brendan Rodgers has to carry the positives from this game and utilize it to its utmost. While the eagle or in this case, the LiverBird might not be as powerful or as predatory as before, a wounded bird has the ability to be even more dangerous and that is the message Rodgers must deliver.
Rodgers surprised all of us by playing what looked like a ‘reserve’ team at the Bernabeu with regular starters Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson all missing with further catalysts from last season like Phillipe Coutinho also missing. The talk before the match for Liverpool was to expect the worst and hope for something less humiliating. But, the players surpassed all expectations and gave a fair shot when almost everyone had written them off. If was one of the players playing in that team, I would feel insulted and humiliated to be categorized as a reserve player who plays only when the first-teamers need a rest. It was indeed that with the Chelsea game looming over the weekend. But, the team surpassed expectations and did not look out of place against a side of Real Madrid’s caliber. In fact, the performance was arguably better than all of the others of this season bar the win at White Hart Lane. There was passion and there was a want to be on the football pitch doing what we all love. No sulking, no diving, no complaining and definitely no biting. Some have regarded this selection as damage limitation. If true, then where does that put 20 million man Dejan Lovren when a 33 year old who is now regarded as a comedy act is trusted to do it rather than him? Where does that put multi-million pound earner Glen Johnson when an uncapped Spanish Under-21 international is entrusted to play ahead of him. The simple fact is Rodgers, in thinking that he picked his substitute players actually picked the better players on forma and it showed on the pitch when you contrast the performance with the one at Anfield, which was mundane to say the least.
We are not football experts or ‘pundits’ but everyone watching the game could tell that Fabio Borini, a player who almost left for QPR over the summer showed more effort in one game than Mario Balotelli in 13. While that is not to degrade the more experienced Italian, it is always uplifting for the crowd and indeed for the team when you see a striker showing commitment to track back and help the team out when under pressure. Unfortunately, Balotelli has not been doing enough of that this season. While it would be unfair to rule him out, Balotelli is running out of chances and with a paltry two goals in 13 games, things are not looking good for him. Balotelli is static in his movement and his nonchalant attitude can sometimes have a negative effect on the team morale. We have seen how the willingness and desire of a single player in Luis Suarez can galvanize the team and Borini can do something similar.
So, this brings us to the match against Chelsea, which will be a dark memory in the back of every single Liverpool fan’s mind after the events of last season. Jose Mourinho’s park the bus tactics got a lot of negative press with it but there can be no arguments that it was successful in stymying the Reds and it did seem like Mourinho had Rodgers’ number. Now, Chelsea come to Anfield with a better attack, better midfield and same solid defence making this an even worse proposition for the Reds. If past games are anything to go by, it will be a feisty encounter and if Rodgers’ remains static in his team selection and refuses to budge with his style, it could end in tears for the men from Merseyside. In my opinion, Rodgers should play this team
Javier Manquillo------Kolo Toure-----Dejan Lovren-----Alberto Moreno
Emre Can-----------------Jordan Henderson
Raheem Sterling---------------Fabio Borini
Prediction – 2-0 to Chelsea. I predict the same scoreline from last year because Rodgers just simple refuses to change his team selection and style. There will most probably be no movement and no incision and Liverpool will slowly move towards its downfall.