Jamie Carragher might be getting a bit carried away, but if you whisper it quietly you might just get away with claiming that there are small – very small – signs that Liverpool are finally in a bit of recovery.
The veteran defender is never shy of speaking his mind but he considering he is normally such a compelling and astute commentator on football, his declaration that his team were ready for an assault on the Champions League places was ridiculous.
Other teams might be falling short of the required standards, but Liverpool haven’t got a prayer and Carragher should have known better than to make daft claims when the Reds’ squad is way short on quality.
But what his comments did reveal is that behind the scenes, confidence is growing. There was something about the way Liverpool eventually defeated Wigan Athletic 3-0 at Anfield that suggests the Reds might be getting on the right track at Anfield after nigh on two years of utter dross and even worse results.
You can say it was only Wigan (it was) and you can say that it was only the fourth win of the calendar year at Anfield (it was). You can also say that the obligatory struggles were all too obvious in the first half – plenty of possession but a lack of cutting edge – because they were.
But comfortable victories like that haven’t really happened for Liverpool on a consistent basis since Rafa Benitez left (only once did the new Chelsea boss lose at Anfield to a team who finished below him in the league) and so the easy swatting away of a lower-rank side has been a long time coming.
What’s more, it doesn’t seem like a one-off. Much-changed sides have been beaten – and deservedly so – by Swansea City in the Capital One Cup and by Anzhi in the Europa League, but Liverpool are unbeaten in seven Premier League games now.
Four of those matches have been drawn, but when they include away trips to Chelsea and local rivals Everton, 13 points from 21 is not bad at all.
And after struggling to keep clean sheets at home, Liverpool have now kept four in their last six games at Anfield and making the side difficult to beat is a sensible move from Brendan Rodgers, especially when goals will remain a problem until the situation can be rectified in January.
It is with this in mind that I’ll be selecting my top bet for Liverpool’s clash with Young Boys in the Europa League on Thursday, where the Merseysiders are strong favourites at 2/5 to take a giant step towards qualification for the last 32. The draw is 7/2, with the Swiss side 13/2 as they too look to reach the knock-out rounds.
Group A is tight, with Anzhi top on seven points, Liverpool and Young Boys on six and Udinese bottom on four points, but even though all four are still able to qualify with two games remaining, Liverpool could secure a passage through to the next round with victory over Young Boys, coupled with Udinese failing to beat Guus Hiddink’s side.
It means Rodgers will want to get the job done at Anfield and leave a trip to Italy in December as a dead rubber and I think his team selection will show that. I expect a very strong home side which includes both Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard – he played both at home to the Russians three days before the Merseyside derby – and I therefore fully expect Liverpool to win.
With that new-found solidity I discussed above, I also expect them to win to nil and that’s what I’ll be on at 7/5, with winnings of £48 on offer for anyone successfully backing this with their free £20 bet after registering with bwin.
Plus, it seems to go one of two ways with Young Boys on the road – goals galore or nothing at all. They have already had five matches this year where they have failed to score on their travels, but they have also hit five goals twice, as well as three strikes on two occasions.
But I don’t see them getting those sorts of chances against a full-strength Liverpool side – I think the Reds are professional enough to get the job done with minimum fuss and I like that 7/5.