On Tuesday, Liverpool recorded a 3-2 home victory over Tottenham Hotspur. That marked the club’s nine match unbeaten streak in the league, stretching back to the home 2-2 draw with Arsenal in December. That also made it just one loss in over 13 games.
The club has been boosted by the return of Daniel Sturridge after a lengthy five month layoff. Although Sturridge has been rusty in the time he has been on the pitch, it is understandable because of his injury. His goal in his return match for the club was great and made Red hearts soar. To have witnessed the Sturridge dance after so long and so soon after his return was simply a delight. It has been reassuring too to see some signature Sturridge flourishes, which speak of an imminent return to top form.
Mario Balotelli has had a rather torrid time at the club. His goalscoring form, rather, the absence of a goalscoring form saw him spend a lot of time on the sidelines. He made a return to the side as a substitue in the home game against Spurs and scored an emphatic winner. His breaking his Premier League duck for the club rang all the right notes.
Raheem Sterling has also been registering consistent performances. His finishing definitely needs to improve, but other facets of his game seem to be getting enhanced with every match that he plays. It sure is encouraging to track his development.
Philippe Coutinho has recently struck some glittering form. He has been pulling the strings for the squad. The Brazilian playmaker has shown repeated top-class performances and has provided game-changing moments many a time this season, be it with a game-defining pass, threaded softly through the opposition defense or with a smashing goal, to decide the game. His soft and silky touches, his razor-sharp vision and his lightning-esque acceleration have been a resounding roar in some of the recent games.
Lazar Markovic seems to be showcasing his talent on and off, and he should only get better with time. Adam Lallana has been curtailed to impose himself on games only in fits and bursts due to nagging injuries. The minute he sees the receding side of injuries, his form whilst at Southampton should come to fore easily.
Steven Gerrard is consistent in being a shadow of his normal, belligerent self. A judicious use of his aging footballing resources would enable the club to get vintage performances from him more often than not. All is not over for Gerrard yet. He will rise up again, and will certainly leave on a high.
The back three has finally settled down and has a semblance of substantial stability. The defense looks its best now, when compared to the matches over this term. Martin Skrtel seems to have realized the responsibility of being the senior man and has become stable and saner (it’s okay to be surprised by that). Mamadou Sakho, although giving off the definite vibe of him being uncomfortable on the ball, always dispells that image by being cool subsequently. His form has certainly been important for the cosy cohesion that the back three has recently gained.
The 21-year-old Emre Can though has been the pick of the lot in recent times. Played by Brendan Rodgers out of position, he seems to have rubbed off that issue and has made his position in the Liverpool defense his very own. His being calm and composed on the ball and receptive and agile off it seem to belie his young age and relative inexperience. He seems to be perpetually in control of his game, and his ability to make accurate tackles at crucial junctures has served the club well.
The most impressive facet of his recent run of good form has been his judgement of the gameplay. In certain games, especially in the FA Cup replay against Bolton, he decided to push himself upfield to inject more urgency and force into Liverpool’s midfield.
Liverpool’s game had been going awry and the side was trailing Bolton by one goal. Time was of the essence when Can decided to notch it up a gear. He began to play more in the central midfield position, where he was able to dictate the play. His interceptions and his passes were extremely good. His game had taken on a new flavour after he had promoted himself up the pitch.
His assist for Raheem Sterling was the top-notch and essentially changed the tide of the game in Liverpool’s favour. Liverpool had been trying to unlock the rather stubborn Wanderers defense, when Can spotted the run of Sterling and caressed a looping ball towards him. Sterling did the rest, with a sumptuous finish.
Can’s assessment of the game, his belief in himself to take the game by its throat and then set the tone forwards, his assuring play thereafter have all raised his stock manifold. He is becoming an invaluable asset to the club.
Steven Gerrard faces a three-week layoff owing to a hamstring injury. A few days earlier, Lucas Leiva was sidelined for six weeks following a thigh injury. Lucas’ performances this season have uplifted the team’s play and morale, and he will be heavily missed. With Can in good form though, cause for anxiety may still be minimum.
With Kolo Toure’s return and with Rodgers in the mood to give Dejan Lovren a few more chances, Can may get an extensive run at the centre of the midfield. With Gerrard and Lucas out, Can would get a go with the inflammable Coutinho, to keep the game ticking. It would certainly be interesting to see how he can influence the game for a prolonged duration.
Daniel Sturridge seems to be excited about an impending partnership with Mario Balotelli. If Rodgers does decide to play the two of them together, it would prove to be an interesting albeit nail-biting prospect to see whether or not the partnership clicks.
Liverpool stand seventh in the league table, four points off fourth place and seventeen points behind league leaders Chelsea. This recent renaissance of sorts has kept the club in great stead to stake a claim for a Champions League spot. As the fag end of the league approaches, excitement is abundant as Liverpool is alive for the Champions League spot as well as the FA Cup.
The game is afoot!
Editor’s Note: The article is sponsored by Nivea Men