Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool future looks bleak after Tuesday evening’s Champions League exit…
So Liverpool’s long-awaited return to the Champions League has ended with them falling at the first hurdle, and sadly, no one seems overly surprised by their rather mundane exit.
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It seems Liverpool supporters, and football fans in general, have written the Reds off for the 2014-15 campaign, with the team struggling for goals, creativity, and defensive stability – never an ideal set-up for a team playing in Europe’s elite competition.
Last night, needing to beat Basel to qualify for the Last 16, manager Brendan Rodgers elected to play four central midfielders, left flair players Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho on the bench, and withdrew his only striker – Rickie Lambert – at half-time.
The game truly summed up everything that has gone wrong at the club so far this season, as well as emphasising yet further how sorely Rodgers misses his dynamic ‘SAS’ – Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge – duo that served him so well last term.
Liverpool fell behind to a soft goal mid-way through the first-half, with walking calamity case Dejan Lovren failing to close down scorer Fabian Frei, while the home side had barely mustered a glimpse of creativity before traipsing in at the break.
Lazar Markovic’s second-half red card was as unfortunate as it was stupid – but however harsh it might have been – the question still remains of the Serbian: why do it? Who throw your arm out at all, when you know there is an opposition player in close proximity.
Steven Gerrard’s wondrous second-half free-kick put a deceptive dent in an otherwise predictably depressing night for Liverpool, who people are now simply expecting to slip-up.
Last season, opposition teams feared a trip to Anfield, perhaps more than they did any other ground in the Premier League. But that fear factor left with Suarez on a plane to Barcelona this summer, and it seems Rodgers needs something of a Christmas miracle to save himself from the sack.
The answer? The Europa League – mocked and laughed at by many supporters – but Liverpool have as good a chance of winning it as anyone else, and this year’s winners are guaranteed a spot in the Champions League – which is probably Rodgers’ best chance of qualifying for Europe next year.
Europa League football has played a key role in helping mould more than one current European superpower. Atletico Madrid won it in both 2010 and 2012, before reaching the Champions League final earlier this year.
Chelsea won in 2013 under former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, after falling out of the Champions League, and the Spaniard’s success at Stamford Bridge set the Blues on their way to a further rise under Jose Mourinho.
Sevilla, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit Saint Petersburg are all respectable European outfits that have won the competition in the last decade, while Liverpool have themselves won it under its former guise – as the UEFA Cup – on three occasions.
Liverpool fans crave success, so rather than moaning about fixture congestion and Thursday night football, surely it would be more refreshing for Rodgers and co to go for broke, and make a means for their early-season failures.
Victory would ensure a trophy, several more memorable European nights, a spot in the Champions League for next season and would, quite possibly, save Brendan Rodgers’ job.
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