Remember when Easter weekend meant two games of football? Of course they still do in the lower leagues, but now in the Premier League we only get one. I feel like they have stolen a game off us here. Who do you speak to? I blame the managers.
My favourite was Easter weekend 2001. On Good Friday Liverpool lost a cracking game of football 2-1 against Leeds United, our rivals for the top three before it became the top four, with Steven Gerrard scoring and then getting sent off. However, on Monday The Reds won an even madder game 3-2 at Goodison Park, in a match famous for a 44 yard free kick by Gary McAllister to win it in injury time. I hardly celebrated that one at all. A long weekend might have turned into a written-off week.
This weekend we’ll have to make do with a trip to Crystal Palace in a game they are calling “The one we have to get through before the Champions League quarter final”. That of course is a dangerous mindset for what is itself an important match at both ends of the table. But it’s the first time we’ve been in the Champions League knockouts for nine years, so if we are a bit giddy you’ll have to excuse us.
Jurgen Klopp will have to assess the focus and fitness of his own players and decide whether he is better off playing hungry players unsure of their place in the side, or his strongest eleven, with the small possibility a few of the stars upfront are jumping out the way of tackles with half an eye on Wednesday.
Knowing the way Firmino et al play, he probably doesn’t need to worry. Firmino counter-presses the ball-boys.
But at some point this season he will have to use different players in the squad. An Everton game sandwiched between the two Manchester City ties looks like one in particular where rotation will be vital.
So who on the fringes is ready to come to the party like Frank The Tank in Old School?
Well, it was lovely to see lovely Adam Lallana come on for England the other night. His last year has been as quiet as David Warner’s next one, but he has undoubted quality and has always been a player Klopp likes. He’s got a bit of catching up to do fitness-wise to get in this Liverpool eleven, but you certainly wouldn’t put it past Lallana to have a big impact in the final month. Especially as he is able to play a number of positions. He’s scored at the Etihad too…
Well, an unfortunate injury to Joe Gomez leaves us a bit short at right back, with just 19-year-old Trent Alexander Arnold fit and available. But there is hopeful talk that Nathaniel Clyne might be back soon from wherever on earth he’s been, and might be ready to actually play some football. It would be most welcome. Aside from that there was a late winner for Dom Solanke for England U21s, proving he still knows where the net is when he can get on the pitch, and Danny Ings’ last goal for Liverpool was at Goodison Park.
One place we do have numbers is central midfield.
They are all players a varying percentage of Liverpool fans think are rubbish, granted, but it is numbers all the same. It was interesting to see football fans saying “I’m not sure about Jordan Henderson/Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain you know” spreading round the country in the last week, rather than just confined to Merseyside for once. You still wonder what the future holds for both at Liverpool as the manager looks to remould the midfield in the summer. But we have what we have for now.
I think Klopp will go strong at Selhurst Park, wanting to both win the game and give a run out and rhythm for the likely team against Manchester City on Wednesday. A win and it sets us up nicely for a mouth watering tie and an exciting run in. We’ll probably lose to a Roy Hodgson hat-trick now.