By Terry McGivern
Q – With the title race in such fine balance, could the international weekend have come at a worse time for both sides? More importantly Liverpool!?
I’m no lover of international football in general and it’s not unusual for the powers that be to schedule international games at the worst moments, plus we normally get bad injuries to our players who are involved, so there’s never a good time for them for me, except maybe big tournaments in summer! With this one though, it seems we’ve got away without any massive injury problems and it’s maybe actually been a blessing, as it’s actually allowed us to get some minutes into the legs of some players who have been out and we maybe couldn’t risk throwing straight back in in important games, Dejan Lovren for instance, who played 90 mins for Croatia. At the same time, it gives us another week or so for Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to get some more work in at Melwood and get closer to full fitness. So arguably, this international break could have done us a favour on the injury front, if it gets the squad closer to being fully fit and as a last point, it could actually be good for the players to have had a week or two off from the intensity of the title race.
Q – How pleasing was the win at Fulham prior to the international break in that it showed Liverpool are prepared to win ugly in this race opposed when faced with such games?
It was a really pleasing win as it again showed this team is a serious outfit, with a strong core. In past title chases, we’ve wilted when things have gone against us (Chelsea and Palace games under Rodgers for instance) and ended up blowing it as panic sets in, but we haven’t seen this yet with this team and that bodes well. Any team going toe to toe with this City team knows it basically can’t put a foot wrong and it’s been pleasing to see that when we’ve ran into trouble in games, like at Fulham, so far, we’ve stayed composed and been able to recover and get the job done. Seeing three of your most consistent players combine to concede a comedy goal and threaten a draw when you’ve dominated the game could have really damaged the mentality of the team, so the fact they didn’t flap, they kept relaxed and composed and got the rewards, with Milner stepping up to dispatch a high pressure penalty, can only be a good thing.
Q – Moving onto the weekend, Tottenham is arguably the most difficult domestic fixture left in the season. Is this a fixture that worries you?
To be honest, it’s not no. I think we’re a better side than them, in better form than them and we’re at Anfield. So worried isn’t the correct word. Do I respect them though? Yes. They’re a good side, with a good manager, who will be relishing the fact that they still have a part to play in the title race, as their own challenge has fallen away, given they have games against us and Man. City. But I genuinely believe that if we turn up on Sunday and play to our level, Tottenham won’t be able to live with us. We just need to make sure we turn up with the right attitude and energy levels, as that hasn’t been our strength after we’ve had breaks so far this season, although they were breaks without any football, not international breaks where the players were still involved in games, so hopefully not an issue this weekend. I still think Chelsea is the most difficult game left this season, just because it’s in between the Champions League Quarter Final legs and there’s the history of the last title challenge fizzing out after they beat us at Anfield, so that adds another dimension to that game, but a good win against Spurs will convince this team it has what it takes to go all the way and that’s why it’s so important we do the business on Sunday.
Q – Finally, a lot has been made (including a question to Jurgen Klopp) about the prospects of what more games in Europe could possibly do to our title challenge. Where do you stand on this?
I can’t get on board with the thinking that being in a Champions League Quarter final, with arguably the easiest tie in the competition is a distraction or could derail the title challenge. I want this team involved in these stages of competitions. Us fans have moaned in the past about being out of everything come February (well I have anyway), so I can’t now complain when this team is arguably 12 games away from immortality and being able to stand up to comparisons with, not just any Liverpool team in history but any British team in history. A double of the Premier League and the Champions League, whilst still a bit of a fairy-tale dream, is very much a possibility if this team believes in itself and plays to its ability. Even winning one of the trophies would still be an outstanding achievement and show serious progress. That being said, our squad isn’t the deepest and certainly isn’t Man City deep, so we have to worry about injuries, but I just couldn’t trade either competition for the other, out of fear someone might get injured. I’d rather we were heroic losers going down fighting in both competitions, painful as that would be, than hate ourselves for being scared and abandoning one to favour the other, especially when that could ultimately result in failure anyway! Imagine not going 100% in the Champions League, getting dumped out at quarter or semi-final stage and City won the title anyway…certainly not for me that!