As everbody knew going to the Liberty stadium was not going to be a formality and it was far from it in the end. Having been totally dominated in the first half it came as a surprise the teams went into the changing rooms with the scores level. On a number of occassions Mignolet made some outsatnding saves to thwart the Swansea attack. Going into half time with either side yet registering on the scoreboard Gary Monk will have been the happiest of the two managers. Brendan Rodgers will have had a lot to say to get his team up and ready for the second half where they couldn’t play much worse.
As you would expect Liverpool were better in the second half where Joe Allen was particularly impressive with his tackling and moving of the ball. Liverpool were always going to have some form of pressure at one point and after a clever flick from sturridge for Henderson to run onto we were presented with it. The Swansea defender beat Henderson to the ball but, the path the defender decided to take clearing the ball was in line with Henderson. This lead to a deflection that looped the goalkeeper leaving him stranded and Liverpool one goal to the good. Taking the lead afforded Liverpool the opportunity to sit back and counter with devastating affect. Daniel Sturridge struck the post late on to give the Swans a late shock.
Liverpool showed their resilience all game pressing the ball, tackling players and holding out for a result that perhaps on the balance should have been a draw. This reilience was not a part of the side that came second last year with the idea that if you score one we’ll score two. The distinct change in identity has meant that Liverpool are more defensively independent and are able to cope with an onslaught and come away with 3 points. With Manchester United on Sunday the Reds will be feeling a lot better about the game in Anfield where they can move one point clear of their rivals with a win.
As it always is the first night of Champions League football is an exciting but, important time for clubs it helps them get underway with the competition and settles the nerves. It is an especially special occasion for any concerned with Liverpool because it’s the clubs return after a five year gap which can only make the atmosphere in Anfield tonight more intense. For Liverpool fans there is nothing like a european night at Anfield anywhere in the world, the stands will be rocking. What most fans including myself will be looking forward to is when we sing You’ll Never Walk Alone because as a Liverpool player if that doesn’t get you fired up nothing will.
Liverpool will be hoping to get off to a good start and set a fast tempo today because as we all saw last season they could win games in the first 20 minutes if the pressing and passing were on point. Mario Balotelli will obviously play a large role in the team today with the absence of Daniel Sturridge but, more so because of his european and international experience.
Ludogrets will face a harsh time tonight if they are sluggish to close down and stop Liverpool having most of the possession as it is becoming more important to break up the play and stop any rhythm and momentum they may have. Due to how unknown Ludogrets are Liverpool may be in for a surprise but who can tell as european nights do often throw up the odd anomaly of games.
Frankly, Liverpool should walk away with all 3 points and be topping the group on goal difference, as Madrid face a tough task in the form of Basel who have shown their resilience against the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.
All the rumours are pointing towards quite a youthful attacking force to feature against Italy possible because of the age of the Italian defenders who are ageing. Cheillini will not have the legs to match one of several players; Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Oxlade Chamberlain and Ross Barkley to name a few who would render the Italian defence cuckoo. The list of players previous are examples of the youthful nature of the squad proving England’s reliance on the old faithful is dissolving which can only benefit English football for the future. Realistically I can’t see any changes to the England back five including; Joe Hart in net, Glen Johnson at Right Back, Leighton Baines at Left Back and pairing at the back Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. This back five has been very solid and has built up a good understanding so hopefully this will stand us in good stead in our defensive duties.
Now for the holding midfield, we obviously have the certainty of Steven Gerrard captaining the side hoping to overtake David Beckham’s record appearances for an outfield player for England. Now the difficulty comes when deciding his partner, Lampard could add an attacking threat with his good goal scoring record for England or the more likely Jordan Henderson with his box to box antics causing more havoc for Prandelli’s side to contend with.
In front of the Liverpool pair I have really struggled with deciding who should play and in what position wide or central, another issue that came to mind is does Rooney actually deserve a spot on merit. My decision is as so; Rooney through the middle because the boys alongside him will need his composure and experience to help guide them through a game of this magnitude and importance. I have been a big critic of Rooney this year saying he should be the man to step and lead United through this tough time but actually looking at his record he has come up with 15 goals mainly playing as a CAM which can only be commended. If Rooney is to ever put to rest the whispers of his national team record then Brazil would be the time to put it behind him. Alongside him Raheem Sterling but despite his age and lack of game time in an England shirt he can really, really frighten the Italy Right Back into making numerous mistakes leading to England scoring. On the other side it would be difficult to say no to Adam Lallana as he has been consistently good throughout his England career, stepping into the centre of the field running at the defence causing them to back track and lose attention of the on running players. Inevitable Daniel Sturridge must start he has shown he is an out and out scoring, creating chances at will for example Peru where he curled the ball majestically into the top corner from a unlikely position.
Tonight Liverpool will be facing Sunderland at Anfield after a series of trips away from home for the reds which has seen them go on an unbeaten streak which has coincided with Daniel Sturridge’s rich vain of form and Luis Suarez’s return to his goal scoring ways after 5 games without a goal which is a drought for him.
Sunderland will be going to Anfield with a weakened side with the loss of Fabio Borini who is on loan from Liverpool which is unfortunate as he has been a good source of goals for the black cats who are in struggling times fighting it out towards the bottom of the table. Sunderland have had a difficult season with the loss of a manager who bought eleven new players who still seem not to have settled in the league yet, especially considering it takes a season or two to aclimatise to the pace of play in the premier league.
The game will be an intriguing encounter bearing in mind that both sides have their own motives for winning the game. Liverpool will want to extend their unbeaten run which will help them in the title challenge with a game in hand closing within one point of the league leaders if they get a win. Despite Liverpool’s intentions to win the league Sunderland will be looking to the spoil the party and wheel away with a point which will take them one step closer to securing their premier league status.
My prediction is a 4-0 home win for the reds putting them within a point of Chelsea at the top.
The question on many football supporters and pundits lips are can Liverpool really sustain a real title challenge with the remaining games they have to play. With the continuous denial of the 3 main contenders managers it is becoming a very frustrating time as a Football follower to make any real sense of the interviews that particular managers give. According to Jose who is as ever playing mind games with everyone Chelsea are not the favourites for the title despite the extensive wealth of title-winning experience in the team. Jose has on numerous situations shifted the attention of the media towards the other blues in the title race. Manchester City currently have 3 games in hand and have a much superior goal difference in comparison to Chelsea but also face a less so tolerable time when you look at the fixture list with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool still to play. Despite the games in hand Jose will still be a lot happier than City boss Pellegrini as he currently has the points on the board which only puts more pressure on the City players who are not strangers to such pressure winning their first ever Premier league title on the final day with a final flourish from Aguero.
In and amongst all of the back and forth claims between the two financial heavyweights of the league, Liverpool have been the dark horse going under the radar winning games and beating their total goals scored in a season already with 7 games still left to play. Liverpool on 17 occasions this season have scored 3 or more in 20 of their wins which is a ridiculous amount of goals for a team who last year didn’t lack creativity but the final part of the game hitting the back of the net. The obvious difference being this season that Liverpool have got the prolific strike force of Sturridge and Suarez who between them currently have 47 goals which has significantly contributed to the team. The two front men for Liverpool can go out and win games themselves which is a considerable difference between them City and Chelsea’s forwards they are consistently scoring and winning games for the side without needing the aid of goals from other areas of the field,
Are Liverpool real title contenders, I would say so but the pivotal games coming up like Spurs, City and Chelsea will probably decide who the champions are.