Peter Stevenson discusses the importance of Liverpool emerging from the festive fixture list with Champions League and Premier League hopes still intact.
Deep into injury time, the ball is pumped forward, Everton clear it and it drops to Virgil van Dijk. For all his prowess as a defender, finishing isn’t his best attribute so why he thinks he can take on a volley from the edge of the box is beyond anyone at Anfield or watching on TVs around the globe. His
reaction says it all, he turns away in disgust as the ball loops in the air. Now if you were to tell me at that point that in a week’s time we’d be sitting at the top of the table, the only undefeated team in the league, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you.
That huge slice of luck, that Jordan Pickford for some reason thought it would be a better idea to catch the ball rather than let it hit the bar and go out and that Divock Origi was the only player who believed the ball could drop to him, has seen the momentum shift in the title race.
Then Wednesday night came around and a tough fixture away at Burnley, where Klopp was forced to rest players with such a busy upcoming schedule. From the kick-off it was apparent that Burnley were going to waste as much time as they could on set plays, make the most of any of our challenges and try to kick us off the park.
That Joe Gomez was the only player injured was a surprise considering some of the meaty challenges some of the Burnley players put in.
Then we conceded what could be considered a dubious goal in my estimations. The commentators barely mentioned that the goal shouldn’t have stood for a couple of reasons but they do love the narrative of the classic British team roughhousing the elites.
This would be a true test of our character. And the team came through with flying colours with the added bonus that we seem to have upset Sean Dyche in the process.
At 1-0 down away to Burnley you can imagine Man City were thinking finally this lot have come unstuck so to see us turn it around in such a fashion will have certainly put some doubt in their minds. Another tough away game followed at Bournemouth but without their talisman Callum Wilson, the Cherries looked quite toothless thankfully.
It’s quite funny how no-one really mentioned that Burnley’s first goal against us should have been disallowed for offside (let alone the fact the ball was kicked out of Alisson’s hands) yet I lost count of the number of times they mentioned Salah was offside for his first goal against Bournemouth.
Most people have lauded the Bournemouth performance as our best this season and it’s hard to argue when it was so comfortable but a large portion of that is down to how the opposition set up. They were the first team that didn’t just show up to try and stifle our play (excluding the top teams, although that’s pretty much how Chelsea set up at Stamford Bridge).
Confidence is high going into probably the most crucial part of the season (although I hope May becomes the most crucial part of the season). Champions League qualification against Napoli, followed by Man Utd, both at Anfield. Then a busy festive period that basically culminates in playing Man City away.
If both teams are within touching distance of each other, which barring a collapse by one or the other looks likely right now, then the result could have huge ramifications going forward.
The next four weeks will almost certainly shape the rest of our season. We’ll know soon enough if we’re the real deal and what Man City are made of. Much has been made of Guardiola’s obsession with us, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react to falling behind us in the title race.
That we’ve won ugly, won under difficult circumstances, got results at the death and now appear to be clicking will have them shaking in their boots.