The new era at Anfield kicks off in earnest on Thursday evening when Brendan Rodgers takes charge of his first home match as Liverpool bring back their 1-0 advantage from Belarus and face FC Gomel in the second leg of their Europa League qualifying tie.
And it is the first step in making Anfield ‘the cauldron’ for opponents that Rodgers believes is key if Liverpool are going to make any significant improvement under his stewardship and let’s be honest, things couldn’t exactly get much worse than last season.
Under Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool posted their worst home league record since 1953/54, winning just six of their 19 matches at home. The Reds scored only 24 goals and managed to garner just 15 points out of an available 36 against the sides who finished below them in the table. It just wasn’t good enough, especially given the money Dalglish spent, and the first thing on the former Swansea boss’ to-do list is to make L4 a difficult place to visit once again.
Back at Anfield, you would think that Liverpool should find it easy but they didn’t click as an attacking force whatsoever last week – Downing’s excellent goal was a 25-yard strike – and it is clear that there is still much work to be done.
To that end, he is attempting to invoke past glories by not only making Bill Shankly-esque declarations but even going as far as to have the original ‘This is Anfield’ sign put back up in the players’ tunnel: all fine gestures, but the Northern Irishman knows only the players at his disposal can make going to Liverpool hard for away sides and on that front, the Merseysiders have had an interesting week.
Luis Suarez has put pen to paper on a new extended contract but all the transfer talk is of outs rather than ins. Manchester City clearly want Daniel Agger, who for my money is one of the classiest centre-halves in world football when fully fit, and with the on-going speculation about Andy Carroll refusing to go away, Liverpool are in a position where their already thin squad is in danger of being severely weakened, with Roma striker Fabio Borini the only significant addition of the summer so far.
But regardless of who is at the club at the time of writing, they should have enough to see off Gomel in this second leg. The Reds are 1/5 to do so, with the draw at 17/4 and the Belarusians at 12/1 to cause an almighty upset.
To be fair to Gomel, they were by far the better side in last week’s first leg. Only a mixture of very poor finishing and some decent goalkeeping from stand-in Brad Jones saved Liverpool from embarrassment and in the end, it was Gomel who were left embarrassed after they somehow let Stewart Downing score (and how they’ll never live it down).
Back at Anfield, you would think that Liverpool should find it easy but they didn’t click as an attacking force whatsoever last week – Downing’s excellent goal was a 25-yard strike – and it is clear that with the players buying into the Rodgers philosophy there is still much work to be done.
So even though Liverpool should win, I am not anticipating a walkover. It is still pre-season and players are not yet fully fit and I don’t think there is any value whatsoever in any of the markets going for big Liverpool victories.
Any combination involving a Liverpool win is too short to bother with, so have a small go on the 4/1 that the Reds win 2-0 and ease their way into the final qualifying round.
Punters registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Liverpool to beat Gomel 2-0 would return a cool £100 if successful.
That would represent an acceptable outcome for Rodgers as he continues to get his charges in the best possible shape for their trip to West Brom on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
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