Last chance saloon for Liverpool


Rodgers has, it must be said, always had an understanding of the importance of domestic silverware to the club.

Tonight at Ewood Park, he must only hope his modern Liverpool side can raise themselves above recent modest levels and take another step towards a Wembley final that could yet go some way to rescuing his season.

Speaking ahead of the replay at Blackburn, Rodgers would not go so far as to say the FA Cup could save this campaign for Liverpool. He cannot be seen to be writing off his team’s top-four Barclays Premier League hopes just yet. Nevertheless, an FA Cup final would be more than useful, for all kinds of reasons.

‘I don’t want to go down the route of saying that it saves our season,’ said Rodgers. ‘Our objective at the start, though, was to win a trophy.

‘So I think if we didn’t get in the top four and we didn’t have a trophy this year, we would be disappointed. I think certainly the FA Cup would give us a great boost as a team with lots of young players and players coming into the club.

‘That’s the expectancy we want. We want to be able to be challenging every year.

‘That was the key thing for me, to get the group challenging at the top end of the league and for trophies. The FA Cup would mark a good step forward for us.’

Coming towards the final part of a season that saw Liverpool start badly, improve markedly and then disappoint once again, the problems facing their manager are familiar.

Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored 55 club goals between them last season but this time round the club’s top scorers are Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard with 10 each. Meanwhile at the back, familiar failings re-emerged in the 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday as Liverpool defended poorly and were left asking questions — for the first time in a while — of their goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Asked if a defensive repeat would see Liverpool lose to a Championship side tonight, Rodgers said: ‘I think so, yes. We didn’t defend at Arsenal. We didn’t defend the ball well enough, we gave the ball away in poor areas for two of the four goals.

‘Over the last few months we defended really well, we had six clean sheets against good opponents and defended very well away from home.

‘The minute you come off it and if you come off it against good players you can get punished and that is what happened.’

Worryingly for Rodgers (below), his best two defenders — Martin Skrtel and Emre Can — are suspended for tonight’s match, along with captain Gerrard.

There remains a genuine desire to reach May’s Wembley final in order to let Gerrard leave the club in memorable fashion, something that was outlined by midfielder Joe Allen last week.

‘There is no getting away from that,’ said Allen. ‘That is something that drives us. We all feel we owe Steven a lot.’

If it is to happen, Liverpool must overcome what should be a stiff challenge from Gary Bowyer’s team. Blackburn did more that frustrate Liverpool in the 0-0 draw at Anfield exactly a month ago. They could have won and we can expect them to again trouble a defence that may have to feature two of Rodgers’ weakest links, Kolo Toure and Dejan Lovren.

Certainly Liverpool must lift themselves tonight if they are to prosper. The fact that they have already overcome a similar challenge in round four — winning a replay at Bolton — will perhaps encourage them but that was a Liverpool team trending upwards in form. Currently, there is a sense that the opposite is happening.

The obvious beneficiary of all this is the grand old competition itself. With Arsenal, Aston Villa and Reading already in the last four, the FA Cup is guaranteed to find itself with semi-finalists who desperately want to lift the trophy.

Deep down, the FA will long for an Arsenal-Liverpool final. That will evoke some classic memories involving the likes of Charlie George and Michael Owen.

Rodgers would surely give much for the opportunity to avenge last weekend’s league defeat on such a grand stage.

‘There is everything still to play for and we can still make it a really successful season,’ he said.

Whether those words were spoken in hope or expectation, only he will really know. – Daily Mail

Original source: Last chance saloon for Liverpool