Liverpool’s next six fixtures after Real Madrid second leg
Just when you thought Liverpool were back…they weren’t.
The past couple of weeks has epitomised the Reds’ mightily frustrating 2022/23 campaign which will culminate in no silverware and the possibility of entering an undesirable UEFA competition. It’s top four or bust for Jurgen Klopp’s side in the wake of their Champions League exit.
Liverpool currently sit sixth in the Premier League table following Saturday’s defeat at Bournemouth, but the vulnerability of their competitors means the 2019/20 champions are favoured by many to snatch fourth spot despite their woeful inconsistency.
After now exiting the competition this season following their 1-0 defeat at the Bernabeu to compound the 5-2 first leg defeat, returning to the Champions League is the club’s sole focus down the stretch. Here’s who they’ve got coming up on their schedule.
This has so often been a decisive clash in the title race since Klopp’s Reds emerged as a juggernaut, and that will once again be the case when Liverpool visit the Etihad at the start of April.
However, Liverpool’s indifference means they’re not a player at the summit and they’ll instead be functioning as the side that could do Arsenal a favour when they take on Man City. The Gunners currently sit five points clear of the Citizens at the top, and points for the Reds in Manchester will further aid their title charge.
The reverse fixture between these two sides was a sorry state of affairs. However, with Liverpool getting healthier and Chelsea perhaps finding their groove under Graham Potter, this contest at Stamford Bridge should be watchable.
Chelsea are still some way off being considered genuine top-four competitors, but they’ll quickly find themselves in the race should their improved form continue after the international break.
They may be well out of it, but Liverpool are going to have a major say in this season’s title race.
Just eight days after their visit to the Etihad, Klopp’s men welcome the Premier League leaders to Anfield. Mikel Arteta grabbed just his second-ever competitive win over Klopp in the reverse fixture, and the Spaniard will be looking to oversee Arsenal’s first win at Liverpool since 2012.
While the Reds are far from their apex and Anfield hasn’t exactly been the cauldron of yesteryear, victory for the Gunners in this encounter would be hugely significant.
The relegation-threatened Leeds stunned Liverpool at Anfield last October in what was one of the very few high points of Jesse Marsch’s tenure.
Leeds are fighting for their lives at the foot of the table, with new boss Javi Gracia being tasked with getting the Yorkshire club out of trouble following Marsch’s dismissal.
Liverpool haven’t lost at Elland Road since 2000.
Liverpool’s next four Premier League encounters are tricky, but they should get some respite here. Although, you never know with the 2022/23 Reds.
Nottingham Forest have been the poorest away team in the division this season. They’ve earned just one win on their travels and have scored a meagre four goals in the process.
The Reds will also be keen to avenge their defeat at the City Ground earlier in the season.
After taking on three of the Big Six in consecutive matchdays, Liverpool then face three sides fighting against the prospect of relegation.
Not many would’ve projected West Ham to be in their current perilous position before the start of the season, but the Hammers are in serious trouble. They’re just about keeping their heads afloat in 17th, and they’ve shown little to suggest they’re capable of breezing away from danger.
David Moyes’ side also have the Europa Conference League to consider down the stretch.
Jonas Eidevall hails dominant Stina Blackstenius performance in north London derby victory
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has heaped praise on forward Stina Blackstenius after her sensational showing in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Tottenham.
The Swede opened the scoring after just a few minutes and continued to lead the line with real dominance all game, creating plenty of chances for those around her in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
Blackstenius’ performance did not go unnoticed by Eidevall, who took the time to praise the forward after the game.
“Every game poses different challenges, but Stina gave exactly what we needed at the start of the game by posing a threat from balls in-behind against a very compact Spurs’ team,” Eidevall told Sky Sports.
“I think it was very nice to see her take the first finish on her first touch when she first spots the goalkeeper a little bit out of position.”
On the wider performance, Eidevall continued: “I was very pleased with the performance. There are still some aspects of our game we need to get better at compared to the first half. I think our players were brilliant and were very well positioned in the second half. I think we could have controlled the game right from the start.
“I think it starts with the way we attack. We were well positioned. I think we constantly overloaded them out in the wide areas and set up players that can play forward with the ball. We are good at arriving into the box with pace. In the first half and the last ten minutes, we got a little bit complacent and a bit of standing still which suits Spurs’ really well. We didn’t get into that trap in the second-half and that was pleasing.”
The win keeps Arsenal in the WSL title race, moving the Gunners up to 35 points, two behind leaders Chelsea having played a game more.
Emma Hayes’ Blues are in action on Sunday against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, who can blow the title race wide open with a win.
Why do Liverpool fans boo the England national anthem?
Few managers of the modern era have developed a bond with their club’s fanbase as strong as the link between Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
A rapidly stacked trophy cabinet has obviously helped Klopp win over Merseyside but the humble and honest German coach has forged such a deep connection with the people of Liverpool by taking time to understand the history and beliefs of the city.
However, even Klopp was left a little perplexed by the deafening swell of boos which his supporters delivered in response to the English national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.
“I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it,” Klopp reasoned, before admitting: “And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it.”
Don’t worry, Jurgen, we’ve got you covered.
As a port city which has welcomed countless immigrants over the years, many Liverpudlians have an ancestral reason to not consider themselves English. The xenophobia and racism which remains a plague on these shores are not exactly a set of welcoming, open arms.
The term ‘Scouse’, which is a traditional stew, was originally used as a derogatory term for Irish immigrants that could only afford to frequent soup kitchens. But the city’s inhabitants have harnessed the slur and the sense of otherness it was meant to hold.
Engraved in in the wall of the Museum of Liverpool is a quote from the former Gronby councillor Margaret Simey in 1999 which reads: “The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.”
Liverpool’s port points west, which was particularly unhelpful during the 1980s when trade with Europe on the other side of the Isles was being prioritised. Naturally, this only stoked the flames of a dire relationship between Liverpool and the British government.
“Never Trust A Tory” is another common banner which can been seen circulating the Liverpool end on trips to Wembley.
This distrust has only festered over the last decade of Conservative rule. Labour – the more left-wing opposition in England to the Conservatives – have not had a prime minister in power since Gordon Brown in 2010.
Unlike the rest of the country, Liverpool have not given in to the blue invasion. The Labour Party has received more than 50% of the city’s votes in every general election between 1992 and 2019.
This unwavering favouring of Labour came immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s unpopular reign as Conservative party leader and prime minister. Thatcher’s Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe argued that Liverpool should be left to “managed decline”, as revealed by cabinet papers from the era which fed the distrust of that regime on Merseyside. In the wake of the Toxteth Riots, Howe urged Thatcher “not to over-commit scarce resources to Liverpool”.
The Conservatives and Thatcher were also in power at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and their handling of the situation, over a course of a decades-long quest for justice, also enraged a wounded city and its people.
The Tory hatred wasn’t always so suffocating. When the Iron Lady became prime minister in 1979, Sir Malcolm Thornton was first elected as Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston.
However, the distrust very much extends to the modern era as Boris Johnson, when prime minister, was asked to apologise for publishing an article in the Spectator which accused Liverpudlians of “wallowing” in their “victim status” while he was the publication’s editor in 2004. Shockingly, he did not offer a sorry amid his blustering response.
At Liverpool’s first FA Cup final triumph in 1965, the travelling Merseyside support belted out “God Save Our Gracious Team”. For many reasons, Liverpool fans have opted for a blunter approach over the subsequent years.
Reece James withdraws from England squad due to ‘ongoing issue’
Reece James has left the England camp and returned to Chelsea due to an ‘ongoing issue’.
The right-back was expected to start Sunday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley after Kyle Walker played all 90 minutes of Thursday’s 2-1 win away at Italy. But James has failed to prove his fitness and will reconvene with Chelsea at their Cobham training base.
A statement from England read: “Reece James has withdrawn from the England squad and will not feature against Ukraine on Sunday.
“The full-back has returned to Chelsea for assessment on an ongoing issue.
“No replacements are planned as Gareth Southgate’s squad, including the suspended Luke Shaw, continue their preparations at Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground.”
Though James’ fitness record is patchy and he was suffering with a hamstring injury earlier this month, he joined up with the England squad this week having played 90 minutes in two of Chelsea’s final three games before the international break and was expected to be fit and healthy.
He came on as an 85th-minute substitute on Thursday for Bukayo Saka as 10-man England sought to hold onto their lead.
James missed England’s 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign after sustaining a knee injury in the autumn.
Chelsea will be hoping that James’ problem isn’t serious ahead of a busy month that sees them face the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid.
James has already missed 17 games for Chelsea this season – 15 for his knee problem, one for a hamstring issue and one because of illness.
Prior to this season, James has been reported as to having nine other injuries during his time in the Chelsea senior setup, missing a total of 51 matches for the Blues.
On this edition of Son of Chelsea, part of the 90min podcast network, Daniel Childs reviews Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Everton & Graham Potter’s performance. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
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