The international break, title chances and Ben Woodburn - three talking points from the last two weeks

Sanjay Nair discusses Liverpool’s title chances, the international break and Ben Woodburn.

Over the years, Premier League matches right after a break whether international or Champions League/Europa, have proved tricky and more often than not, costly for Liverpool. Having got off to our best start in recent memory, hope was that it would be different this season. Results, however, proved the contrary.

Coming off the Qualifiers in October and November has seen Liverpool battle to goalless draws against Manchester United and Southampton respectively. Four points lost or two points gained, considering the opposition weren’t weak teams by any stretch of the imagination, tilts more towards ‘Glass half-empty’ than ‘Glass half-full’ outlook simply because Liverpool have been that good of late.

Both these games have seen Liverpool dominate possession and create enough goal scoring chances to come away with a win, but to no avail. Against the Saints, Liverpool, as per usual, toiled hard but the end result always seemed just beyond them as tiredness and fatigue finally seemed to take its toll on those returning from international duties. A result that was termed ‘fine’ by our boss was definitely taking into account the condition of the players returning from this unwelcome international break.

What has made matters worse are the injuries to our midfield maestros Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana as well as the perpetually injured Daniel Sturridge. The extent of the absence of our key players could be seen in the game against Sunderland, which was only decided in the final 15 minutes and 3 points were only made certain in injury time. However, on the positive side, it showed a lot of maturity on Liverpool’s part. Patience is always going to be the key against teams in the lower half of the table, most of whom will be looking to go away from Anfield with a precious point and hence will line up very defensively.

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Full credit once again to the increasingly calm Liverpool defence for their third clean sheet in the Premier League, also ensuring in the process that Jermaine Defoe did not overtake Liverpool legend Michael Owen in the all-time Premier League scoring chart.

Liverpool are the team with the most different goal scorers in the league and this trend will need to continue in the upcoming matches if we are to maintain or hopefully better our current league standing. Bournemouth, West Ham and Middlesbrough will look to upset the applecart and we are going to need leaders all over the park to come out with the maximum 9 points, before the small matter of the Merseyside derby is attended to. One can only hope that losing Coutinho during such a crucial period will not prove to be the difference between remaining in the fray as title contenders or proving to be also-rans, such has been the form of the young Brazilian and his influence on the games.

In the meantime, let us rejoice in the joy and ecstasy of seeing the world stand up and take notice of the youngest scorer for Liverpool – Ben Woodburn. A career has begun very well, best wishes for him to go on and replicate the likes of Michael Owen and perhaps Liverpool’s greatest – Steven Gerrard.

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