Two days after another glorious Champions League night and a day before a Merseyside derby, it is time to take stock and check on everyone’s fitness. As hangovers go into the second day and bruised shins are as common as strained vocal chords it is easy to worry about the performance of key men come Saturday lunch time. But this is why you put your work in during pre-season. It is fair to say the twelfth man is peaking at exactly the right time.
But there is a small matter of the players on the pitch too and how many of them we will have available to take to Goodison Park this weekend. Emre Can has decided to get everyone used to life without Emre Can next season by putting himself on gardening leave for the rest of the contract. Fair play, we’ve all done the leaving work wind down.
Joel Matip has somehow got himself injured whilst strolling round the football pitch, which feels impressive until you learn that Ragnar Klavan has got himself injured without playing any football at all. If you add to this Mo Salah proving he isn’t actually Superman by hobbling off on Wednesday night and Joe Gomez doing his ankle playing for England, then we seem to have a bit of an injury crisis at the worst possible moment.
All this makes you wonder how Jurgen Klopp will approach this weekend’s game with a second leg at Manchester City coming on Tuesday. The manager was criticised for rotating so heavily in the reverse fixture earlier this season in a game Liverpool failed to win, but surely the fans would be more understanding of seeing Dom Solanke and his mates this time.
We have a great lead to take to the Etihad, of course, but Manchester City are well capable of scoring two before half time and making it a very lively affair. It has to remain the priority with Chelsea falling behind the top four running.
It all makes this Merseyside Derby a bit of a funny one. Manchester City have their own derby, of course, but at least they can win the league. This one feels like a bit of a non-event with the points at stake, at least, not meaning a great deal considering both sides have other priorities. For Liverpool fans it is getting to another Champions League manager, for Everton fans it is getting rid of another manager.
This could be the first Merseyside derby ever where the fans of the team who win are still unhappier than the fans of the team who lose, but that might be the case if Everton can manage to beat Liverpool for the first time since Roy Hodgson was somehow in charge of Liverpool.
Sure Reds are always keen to beat Everton, but if a reserve team doesn’t manage it on Saturday we’ll shrug our shoulders and start making plans for Tuesday.
Sure, Blues are desperate to get one over on The Kopites, but then they’ll have to put up with Sam Allardyce proclaiming his tactical brilliance in the post-match interview and all their heads might collectively explode. So it’s a funny old game indeed.
However once the game starts and someone no doubt gets themselves sent off that will all be forgotten, for 90 minutes at least. Goodison Park is still the ground that is most likely to see me display all the negative traits associated with football fans. But in my defence, I am always desperate to fit in, and the Park End just do it with such panache. So I have no doubt we’ll all behave just as terribly on Saturday in the pursuit of winning a game of football against your local rivals as we usually do. There are standards to live down to, after all.
But after that? Thoughts will turn immediately elsewhere. Dreaming of Kiev and the possibility of a sixth European Cup. Results and performances like Wednesday night do that to you. I’m still struggling to think about when I have had more fun in a football crowd that the first half against Manchester City. I am still struggling to think of a time this team, who apparently can’t defend, have looked as resolute and determined as they did in the second half against Manchester City.
It was a win that promises even more. That will have turned heads in Madrid and beyond if a 5-0 win in Porto hadn’t already. All the teams left in the competition would much rather Liverpool at a neutral stadium rather than over two legs now. Not that we don’t normally end up filling those too.
But Goodison first. A chance for an unlikely hero to write himself into the record books. Danny Ings winner. You heard it here first.