I can’t think about the Champions League. Sorry, but I just can’t. It’s too big. I’d like to describe what’s going through my mind when I think about that tie, but it would be like trying to explain the plot of The Godfather: Part Two in six words. Impossible.
If the two games with City are the main event of the coming week, it’s important to keep an eye on the undercard. Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace was deemed by many to be the place where the Reds tripped up. I’m not one for horoscopes but in some ways the stars were aligned against us. Hodgson’s Indian sign, the fact that their squad is chockfull of ex-Reds (I cheered when Diego Cavalieri was announced. I always wondered what happened to him) and Selhurst Park being a ground which has harmed us over the years (it’s also terrible to get to and we’re stuck by a corner flag which means that most of us had to guess who was taking corners further up the pitch) all pointed to a post-international break failing.
Mo argued with the heavens.
The game has already been covered by wiser people than I, but suffice to say that the Reds were one-paced in the first half, then good for ten minutes, then terrible, then majestic and then did enough to get over the line. A 1-2 away win. My favourite score line and one that has to be earned. Not a walkover, just a good narrow win. Of course, the problems were still there – Joel Matip and his concentration powers which remind me weekly of Dylan from The Magic Roundabout (ask your Dad) and the glacially slow midfield, but this is a team that only needs to function for a handful of minutes to get the job done. Palace will feel aggrieved though it’s a wonder why they didn’t try more of the ball over the top tactic that made us panic early in the game.
The Eagles will stay up. They have some good players and will be fine when they learn to stop panicking. I thought Patrick van Aanholt had something about him. It can’t have been easy trying to control both Robertson and Mane and he coped well in the main.
Ah, Sadio. The headline maker.
The general consensus is that both of the incidents involving the Senegalese were yellow cards and, subsequently, a red. I have some sympathy with that view. True, he was caught for the non-penalty, but he was never going to be given that. Well, not unless Jon Moss was the ref. Equally, he did deliberately handle the ball and that is a bookable offence, but it was nice to see some element of common sense applied there. It would be a stupid thing to be dismissed for. He made a mistake, but no-one was harmed and Liverpool gained no advantage by stopping the ball (unless you believe they were about to go on a runaway break). It was just a stupid thing to do.
This would have been ironic as the ref spent the game with little or no interest with logic at all. Time and again he held the game up with pernickety decisions. Danny Murphy thought he was great – ever the hallmark of a sub-standard performance.
Anyway, Mo Salah wrapped up the points with a calm finish and the boisterous travelling Reds sang Allez Allez Allez to the skies. I love that song. We move on to the game that pickles our thoughts hourly.
The second most significant game of the weekend came at Stamford Bridge where Spurs tore up the record books by knocking Chelsea out of contention. That suits us, of course, and it’s difficult to see where Chelsea go after that. Eden Hazard has already announced that he’ll look at a new contract after the World Cup, which is usually shorthand for ‘Large Signing-On Fee Please’ and Alvaro Morata has morphed into that character in The Fast Show who can’t make his mind up about anything and ends up choosing neither option. I’ve seldom seen a man remained so keen to be glued to his centre-back.
That defeat puts them 10 points behind the Reds and given that we entertain two of the bottom three before the end of the season, puts us in the box seat when it comes to qualification to next year’s Big Cup. That’s fine, but I’d like to see us look above at United rather than below at Chelsea. This is not just a Liverpool v Man Utd thing. I’d like Liverpool to be seen as the second team in the country as a celebration of Klopp’s free-flowing philosophy over Mourinho’s stout pragmatism. There’s room for both, of course – and I’d gladly accept the latter for a clean sheet victory on Wednesday – but I’d like to see entertainment win.
Ah, I’ve mentioned Wednesday. There it is again. Lingering on the edge of everyone’s thoughts like contemplating an unlikely date at the weekend with the girl/boy who usually wouldn’t look at you.
It’s more than possible that some of you will know the score as you read this and have already been both excited and terrified as I am. Let me say this though (at the risk of sounding foolish after the event). In 2005 many considered Liverpool’s Champions League to end at the hands of Scudetto winning Juventus and then at Mourinho’s Chelsea who sat about 43 points above the Reds in the 2004-5 league at the time.
We know what happened next.
Liverpool are the underdog. Liverpool have no right being in the last four say the form books.
Liverpool were built for circumstances like these.
The undercard has passed and the lights are dimmed for the main event.
Good luck everyone.