By Terry McGivern 3/5/19
Q – It was a huge week for Liverpool, let’s start off domestically. A 5-0 rout against Huddersfield will not only keep the pressure on Manchester City, but was that a statement infront of the camera’s that Liverpool are the real deal this season?
I suppose you could say it sent a message that we weren’t going to give up the chase and as you say it kept the pressure on Man City ahead of their Burnley game on the Sunday, but I don’t think a 5-0 at home against the league’s worst (and possibly one of the worst ever Premier League sides) is needed to show this Liverpool team are the real deal this season. The league position, the fact we’ve lost only once and that was away at City and the almost weekly breaking of long standing Liverpool records should tell you that this team is the real deal and has been all season. It’s undeniable that this is a seriously good team and one that, even if it falls short this year, will be in the frame again next season and beyond, if it can be kept whole and a few bits and pieces are added.
That aside, one thing I took from the game was a feeling that it felt like the team and fans accept the league title is no longer in our hands, so they may as well enjoy the run in and that allowed them to go through the gears. There was no sign of nerves or hesitation from team or supporters and whilst it obviously helps with us getting a goal in 15 seconds, even when Huddersfield had a ten minute spell after that, the team just dealt with it and then swatted them aside.
Q – How pleasing was it to see Oxlade-Chamberlain not only return to the side in the 2nd half, but put in a really energetic performance?
Really pleasing! The lad has been through a really grim lay off, after damaging multiple knee ligaments last season in the CL quarter final against Man City, which happened just as he was becoming a really important player for us. It saw him miss out on the semi against Roma and CL final against Madrid, which result aside would have been hard on him, but then afterwards he’s had to sit and watch as this team have put in a brilliant title chase and again got to a CL semi-final, which would, although he’d have been happy for his teammates, will have been hard on him to miss out on. So to see him come on, get the reception he did off the fans and then snap into an early tackle, almost score and generally look very bright and lively was a really good moment and I think it’ll have done him the world of good. It should set him up to be getting ready to be a big part of this team next season and who knows, he may even have some helping hand in the final games at the end of this one!
Q – Moving on to the Champions league, a nightmare result in Barcelona losing 3-0. Does the result reflect the performance for you and do you feel the tie is now over?
It doesn’t no, I thought the score line really flattered Barcelona to be honest. We were right in that game from minute one and I thought Barcelona looked nervous about us. I felt like we got at them every time Salah or Mané picked the ball up. It really was a good performance, but we missed our chances and they took theirs, showing that there’s no room for error at this level. One thing I will say is despite the media afterwards all making out like Messi ran the game, I didn’t see that. He certainly put his name on the game with two goals, one of which was as good a free kick as you’ll see, but he certainly didn’t tear Liverpool apart by any stretch!
As for whether the tie is over, not for me no. 3-0 defeat away in first leg is a tough one to fix, especially against Barcelona, but after seeing the way we were able to get at them in the Nou Camp and seeing their pretty flat performance away at Man United, I see no reason to believe we can’t do at Anfield, what they done in the Nou Camp. I’ve seen Liverpool come from 3-0 down in a CL final, I’ve seen us get the 3 goals we needed, twice over, in the home game against Dortmund in 2017 and I’ve seen PSG and Roma score four and three, respectively, without reply when they played Barcelona at home in last 2 seasons, so there’s no way I’m saying we have no chance of turning this around. An early goal is vital, as is a strong referee who won’t allow them to spoil the game, but Anfield will be right up for this one on Tuesday and with some luck, we may well add another famous European result to our long list!
Q – Finally, a huge game this weekend with Newcastle United away and a chance to take the title run in to the last day. Can you see a potential banana skin in this game or is it one you’re confident Liverpool can come out unscathed from?
It’s a tough assignment, no doubt, given it’s a Saturday night game, after a big CL fixture mid-week which didn’t go our way. On top of that, Liverpool fans know a Rafa Benitez team will always be extremely diligent in prep and setup, so I don’t expect anything but a tough game on the night. That being said, like I mentioned with regards Huddersfield, this team feels like it’s sure of itself now, knows the position it’s in and knows that it has gears it can go through if needed and as such, I’d expect us to go to St James Park and take all three points on the night, to take it to the final game of the season. If we can do that, it again ratchets up the pressure on City who play a tricky fixture against Leicester on Monday night, so fingers crossed it all goes well and it’s the reds who are smiling into the Bank Holiday weekend and not the blue halves of Merseyside and Manchester!