My week has disappeared on me, I thought I had time to put together two pieces for The Shankly Way this week. Just this one about Villarreal tonight then. With apologies to the gaffer and an empty office at 7am on match day, here’s some broken biscuits to chew on regarding the semi-final, second leg.They score one, we’ll need three. A variation on a theme from the United tie, though there is more hope for us in my mind, than there ever was for United.
The concern is the defence, there’s another piece in the works that I had hoped to have out before this game, but alas life gets in the way. The point of that piece is that we once more find ourselves not knowing what our best central defensive partnership is. Not so much through injury, but through the assumed stupidity of Mamadou Sakho raiding the medicine drawer without checking the label. I hope we’re all agreed that Martin Skrtel, can’t be anywhere near the pitch tonight. Indeed, I hope he’s nowhere near again this season. With that in mind, I’m expecting the original weight watcher that is Kolo Toure to be in the team with Dejan Lovren again. No problems here. Simon Mignolet is back in goal, still unforgiven since Wembley in my eyes, no matter how many good games he has before the end of the season.
I’m not going to try and pick a midfield. Whoever is in there though will have to dictate the tempo and manage the game. More so than the young lads were able to on Sunday against Swansea. There has to be more intent from the middle to move the ball forward quickly. We have been slow in recent games, regardless of personnel. It feels like the injuries have left us rudderless, and lacking direction.
The injury to Big Div Origi, hasn’t helped a team that knew what to expect from the man in front of them. DanielSturridge doesn’t have the same work-rate and eagerness that his younger colleague possesses, yet he’s still our biggest threat in front of goal. The midfield’s unwillingness to play the early ball he craves, seems to make him look lazy and lethargic. People come away from the ground slating the lad, others offer mitigation in the form of his injury record. I like to think that there’s hope for him to stay here next year, but I’m not certain. Again, that’s a separate conversation. For tonight, I think he has to start, maybe even with Christan Benteke. That may be a step too far though.
The team have to play to their own strengths tonight, instead of sitting back and worrying about the opposition again. I’m hoping that the crowd will play the part they did in the last two rounds and we’ll coast to Switzerland. But as the song says “We are Liverpool”, and this season, being Liverpool has meant dragging every last second out of every last game in every last competition. I’m not holding my breath for a great show of force.
Villarreal’s manager has said that they won’t be negatively affected by the atmosphere in Anfield tonight. Challenge accepted. If we can cow the builders of the Yellow Wall, then the Yellow Submarine can be drowned out in a sea of noise. I instantly regret that last sentence, but I’m leaving it there to make the point.
A final thought, for a competition that inspired the kind of apathy that it did in the early rounds, it has also given us our biggest highs of the season. I would say more so than the league cup which for the most part can be captured by a series of penalty shoot outs. I’m hoping that tonight will give us one last occasion at Anfield this season, before a trip to Switzerland to stand outside the ground and moan about UEFA’s allocation system. In the meantime, I need to look interested and try to present to a customer without asking his thoughts on the game or bemoaning Mignolet. That piece will be out soon, with a lot more sense than this rambling shambles.