With two Premier League victories under his belt, no doubt Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez would normally be confident ahead of a home match against the Belgian champions. But results aside, the recent form of the team must surely leave a lot of fans nervous ahead of Wednesday night’s vital CL clash with Standard Liege.
Another lacklustre performance and Steven Gerrard & Co could be unceremoniously dumped out of every chairman’s favourite competition and staring financial disaster in the face.
It’s not secret that co-owners Hicks and Gillett are a little strapped for cash, with the diggers hired to work on the new Anfield stadium still ominously quiet. Failure to qualify for the Champions League proper would heap massive pressure on Hicks and Gillett, especially with the Dubai consortium still hovering ready to pick up the pieces.
On paper, at least, Liverpool should wipe the floor with Standard Liege. But as the plucky Belgians proved two weeks ago in the first leg, they can create genuine chances, and have the firepower to cause Liverpool’s defenders problems. Only Pepe Reina and lady luck kept the scores at 0-0.
With Captain Marvel himself still struggling with a groin injury, Javier Mascherano suffering from jet-lag and Ryan Babel still mentally en route from China (if his performance at the weekend is anything to go by!), the Reds midfield will not be at full strength.
Xabi Alonso, if picked, will need to improve considerably if he’s to help Liverpool qualify and possibly earn himself a move to Arsenal. And Yossi Benayoun, after failing to impress in his last two starts for the club, will also have to improve significantly if Liverpool are to create chances from the flanks.
On level points with Chelsea in the Premier League, the Reds look like they’re off to a flying start. But any fan who has seen recent matches will know that Liverpool have been incredibly lucky. Hell, even Jamie Carragher scored and he averages a goal every 120 performances.
Sure, Torres’ goal against Sunderland was a wonder strike and we all know he’s capable of scoring at anytime, as is Gerrard – even when playing badly. But on the basis of things so far, there can’t be much confidence in the squad ahead of tomorrow’s must-win tie with Standard Liege.
So how about it COS regulars? Are Liverpool heading for a massive CL nightmare? Or will Wednesday night see Rafa’s Reds really showing us what they’re capable of?