Sanjay Nair is hopeful that Liverpool will be able to deal with a hectic fixture list in December and continue their impressive form of the last few weeks.
Two important events have been dealt with during the beginning of what is a crazy month for Liverpool; the Merseyside derby and the draw for the Round of 16 of the Champions League. Most Liverpool fans would be having mixed feelings regarding both.
The draw against Everton definitely felt like a loss by most given the recent form of the teams whereas Porto as a Ro16 opponent seems much more manageable than say a Real Madrid, Bayern Munch or Juventus.
With Jurgen Klopp once again rotating the squad, dropping the Brazilian duo to the bench whilst starting with our pacy African pair, Everton were spared the difficult task of handling both speed and creativity together. Though we maintained huge amounts of possession as expected, Pickford and the Toffees’ backline were not unduly troubled and eventually, an absolute gem from Mo Salah was needed to break the deadlock.
Immediately after, a moment of brain freeze upfront from Sadio Mane then prevented Liverpool placing themselves firmly in the driving seat. 1-0 leads are almost always only one error away from being undone and another late goal conceded denied us 3 points. The less said about Lovren’s mistake or the penalty decision, the better.
In the end, a combination of the rotation policy and our inability to hold on to a lead led to Liverpool missing a chance to go third in the table and reducing the gap with second-placed Manchester United who lost the other weekend derby to runaway leaders Manchester City.
Porto may seem a favourable draw for Liverpool and our recent history against them also bodes well for us, with Liverpool unbeaten in the 4 games between the two so far. However, by no stretch of the imagination is this going to be an ‘easy’ tie.
Porto have been in imperious form in the league with a watertight defence that has only conceded 5 goals in 14 matches whilst scoring 36 goals. They also came through their CL group at the expense of last year’s semifinalist Monaco as well as the exciting RB Leipzig of Germany. In Vincent Aboubakar they have a striker in prolific form with 20 goals in all competitions – barely halfway through the season.
Having said that, February is a long way away and Liverpool would do well to focus on the immediate task at hand. The fixture list for December, though cramped as always, does make pleasant viewing and we should be able to ring in the New Year with at least 5 wins in the next 6 matches.
However, each of those matches presents a different challenge. Alan Pardew will bring his Baggies to Anfield looking to block everything first and then play the long ball game. Liverpool will then be keen to make amends for the Dean Court nightmare around the same time last year, blowing a 3-1 lead with half an hour to play to lose 4-3.
Fellow top-4 contender Arsenal is always a tough ask, home or away no matter what their current form. The anguish of losing to Swansea at home will still be fresh in many minds and they are once again in a similar situation, languishing around the bottom of the table. A quietly resurgent Leicester City at home and a trip to face a Burnley side enjoying their best time in the Premier League round off the matches in December. Easy? Not at all. Achievable? Definitely, if the players can keep their wits about them for each of the 90 minutes.
It will all depend on how the whole rotation policy pans out and one would not want to be in Klopp’s shoes at the moment. An unenviable task at hand, keeping the players in shape as well as getting the results and pleasing the fans.
Our big German will also have to be at his shrewdest and we can only hope each team put out justifies its selection.