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Liverpool - Opposition Views


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Ibby Akkas or better known as ReviewFootball on Twitter was helpful in taking some time out to answer a few questions ahead of Sunday's pivotal clash against Liverpool in the Premier League. Here are his thoughts:

1. With only a few games left in the season, what have you made of it all? Did the team exceed your expectations or fall short of them?

Personally for my own expectations, they have been where I thought they would be. Most Liverpool fans thought the club would be closer to the top four, but I've been wary of this, I think Liverpool are a few years off Champions League football. But in terms of exceeding or falling short, I think for most fans, Liverpool have been disappointing but for me, it is what I expect, given the change in playing style and the fact the side is a lot younger than previous seasons.

2. What aspects of Liverpool have disappointed you the most this season?

The lack of consistency, the same errors being highlighted again and again and last, in some respects, the tactical naivety shown by Rodgers.

Firstly, consistency, Liverpool have been rather streaky this season, they started the season off badly and went on a decent run after the Norwich result away (LFC won 2-5). However, by the turn of the year, Liverpool were looking very encouraging, as they had picked up useful points at Arsenal and Man City (LFC fans will fairly argue, both games should have been won). Then LFC had 'winnable games' coming up, fixtures such as West Brom at home, West Ham and Reading, yet, LFC did not win enough of these 'winnable games.' That's been incredibly frustrating, as you cannot be successful if you can’t beat, without any disrespect, the sides with lesser quality.

Another disappointment this season was the repetition of the same errors. Too often, LFC have conceded from set pieces or have struggled versus sides with a strong, powerful targetman and our defenders simply can’t deal with this presence and to be fair, other departments of the LFC side can’t either. While LFC also cannot deal with players who run directly at the defence. One fear about Rodgers is his attacking philosophy leaves LFC a tad lightweight at the back.

While with tactical naivety, one thing that slightly frustrates me with Rodgers is when he fields LFC with a 2 men midfield, often, the two central midfielders are overrun and lack the decision making of what to do, in terms of pressing and even going forward.

3. A top four finish is highly unlikely at this stage, do you fear that the team performance will drop now or do you think the players still have something to fight for?

I don’t think performances will drop. When you play for a side like Liverpool, there is always a big expectation to perform and not only this, some of the players will be playing for their futures too, so there is a lot to play for. Currently there is also a desire, it appears from the management and certainly the fans to better last season's points total, to show LFC have made some progress from last season.

4. Daniel Sturridge made the switch from Chelsea to Liverpool in January. What are your first impressions of him so far?

He has impressed me! Initially, I was not keen on his transfer as I don’t think he constitutes value for money, but from what I have seen so far, the young man has shown he has a good understanding with Suarez while he also looks very comfortable in the side. He also isn’t being too selfish too! But there is room for improvement, his finishing on his right foot needs to improve and his composure could be better too.

5. Suarez has probably been your best player. Who else has stood out for you this season and why?

Steven Gerrard. This season, the world has seen a different type of Gerrard. Normally, we are used to him being the box to box, Liverpool captain. But this season, he has taken a deeper role. His presence for LFC has been invaluable. He has played every single minute of PL football for the club this season, and given the youthfulness of the Liverpool team, his presence has been useful for the younger, inexperienced Liverpool players. But what has also impressed me about Gerrard is his passing and service this season. His passing range has given LFC an extra degree from deep, a tad like Xabi Alonso did for Liverpool. I do feel Gerrard's great delivery from free kicks, corners and general passing has been underrated this season. I don’t think people recognize how key it has been for Liverpool's game. He offers stability, fluidity and leadership.

6. The reverse league fixture ended in a 1-1 draw. Do you expect a similarly close game this time around?

This is a real awkward game. It's the great Rafa Benitez' return to Anfield, while it is also the rivals of Chelsea coming to town too. But I do think it will be a close encounter as recently, Liverpool have had a good PL record versus Chelsea, but I think LFC will want to prove to themselves that they are still a top side, so it will be close game as Chelsea will obviously want to win.

7. Despite that, Liverpool have had a poor record against big teams in the Premier League this season. What do you think is the reason behind this issue?

I think it has been due to the timing of the fixtures and Liverpool's mentality as a team. What I mean by timing of the fixtures is, in Liverpool's opening 5 games, they played Man United, Arsenal and Man City. During the start of the season, LFC were not as fluid or cohesive in Rodgers' system. Although it is unacceptable for Liverpool not to win any of those three games mentioned at home. We should be winning these games as these games mean an awful lot to the fans. Perhaps say, if LFC had won 2 out 3 of those games, maybe fans would be more accepting, but to not win any of them, is something that irks with a lot of reds. Hopefully, next season, as the team is more coherent, they will pick up points in those games.

My point in terms of mentality is when things are not going Liverpool's way, the side often goes into its shell and only start to play when the game is arguably won. Take the results such as Man United away and Arsenal at home. While there have also been times where this resilience has cost LFC points versus the top sides, Liverpool really should have had more about them against Everton and Arsenal, when the reds had a 2-0 lead.

8. All the media talk is about the return of Rafa to Anfield. What do you make of it?

It will be funny, as he would probably be criticised by Chelsea fans, yet he may get songs of praise from the Liverpool fans, even though he is managing Chelsea. So it will be a bit surreal. I think it is vital, Liverpool focus on Liverpool and forget about Rafa managing them, it is vital in terms of showing LFC have made progress by winning games like this. I think Liverpool fans need to think forward and respect and recognise what Benitez has done but now look to the future, as Brendan Rodgers appears to share the same ambitions as the fans.

9. Chelsea have had a crazy schedule this season. Do you think you can take advantage of that on Sunday?

Of course! Chelsea have been a victim of their own success and have had an unbelievable amount of fixtures to fulfill. But it is key Liverpool start the game quickly and finish the game quickly as Chelsea have shown indications of looking leggy. Take last week's cup defeat, I thought Chelsea were lethargic and short breathed. Liverpool's quick, agile and skilful players need to attack the Chelsea players and be courageous as Chelsea are beatable, especially in this state.

10. If you could have one player from Chelsea at Liverpool, who would it be and why?

Most certainly Juan Mata. Easy! The guy is utter class. He has great vision, a great pass, the ability to beat players and a cracking finish too. He, Suarez and Coutinho would be a tidy little trio up front.

11. What likely line-up and formation will Rodgers put out this Sunday?

I think he will go, Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Coutinho and Suarez. (4-2-3-1). However, I would not be surprised if Sturridge starts and Henderson drops to the bench, but if that happens, Chelsea will get a lot of chances. I think it is key, Liverpool play with 3 CM's. Especially since the Oscar/Moses, Hazard and Mata combination could really disorientate the Liverpool midfield.

12. Finally, please predict the final score.

1-1. It will be an open game, as both teams aren’t great at defending.

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