That was an odd game. We were on top for large periods of the game, but were unable to do anything overly useful in the final third. Eboue was woeful, Hleb didn’t make enough use of himself, van Persie is a ridiculous human being, Toure looked thoroughly uninterested. Either that or he’s unfit. In the second half he was playing just in front of where I sit, and when he didn’t have the ball he was just stood still with his hands on his hips. There was no enthusiasm, no effort and no interest, which isn’t a sentence I ever thought I’d type when reffering to Kolo. Liverpool were kept quiet, they’re gash apart from Gerrard and Torres, and in the second half we were cutting out the long passes to Torres and just camping in their half. However, sloppy passing and a lack of creativity stopped us creating too many chances, and the chances we did create, we managed to miss unbelievably. And it didn’t help that we didn’t get a penalty given when Hleb was forcibly raped in the penalty area. But it’s Liverpool in the Champions League, you know the big decisions are going to go their way and you know they’re going to get the run of the ball, we just need to hope we can overcome it in the second leg. We’ll need to score a couple, as I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet, although I probably said that before we travelled to the San Siro, so one never knows. What one does know, is that it’ll need a performance on that scale if we’re to make it to the semis.
Anyway, we need to put the Champions League out of our minds this weekend and focus on the league. This is a chance to put some minor pressure on the top two. Manchester United travel to Middlesbrough on Sunday, and Chelsea play at Manchester City at 3pm on Saturday. Given recent form, both should be absolute hammerings, but there’s always a chance of dropped points away from home. However, if we don’t beat Liverpool it doesn’t matter what the other two do. Our realistic ambition in the league is now automatic qualification for the Champions League, but we need to win every game to have a good shot at it, and maybe we can catch up with top spot if we’re lucky. United’s next four games are away to Middlesbrough, at home to us, away to Blackburn and away to Chelsea. If they don’t drop points in that period, then the league is theirs and they deserve it, but there’s always a nagging hope in the back of our minds that they could drop a few points, and we need to win every game to have a chance of taking advantage, starting on Saturday. Chelsea’s next five games are away to Manchester City, at home to Wigan, away to Everton, at home to Manchester United and away to Newcastle. There’s two, maybe three genuine chances of dropped points for them, although obviously we’re hoping they beat United in order to close the gap at the top. Only if we’re the ones to take advantage though. If we’re out of the race by the time those two play each other, I think I’d rather United win. As much as I despise both sides, I never want to see Chelsea win it again regardless of the alternative.
There’s a possibility of mild rotation from both managers for this league game. They have fourth place pretty much sewn up, we have third pretty much sewn up, and the priority for both sides is the Champions League, although Benitez is probably more likely to admit that. Maybe we’ll see Bendtner starting in place of Adebayor, possibly Fabregas being rested. Not entirely sure. I would suggest Hleb could be rested, but with Diaby suspended and Rosicky injured he’s the only player capable of doing a job on the left. With van Persie injured our options are limited somewhat.
Subs: Lehmann, Toure, Gilberto, Denilson, Adebayor.
Mascherano will be suspended for this game. They may change it around a bit, they may not, but they’ve prioritised Europe for the past three seasons and they’re probably not about to stop.