It might be Valentine’s Day when Liverpool take on Zenit St Petersburg in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 clash, but for Brendan Rodgers it is fair to say that his love-in with the Kop hasn’t really flourished like he might have imagined.
Not that this relationship was always going to be plain sailing, of course.
After Liverpool dumped the love of their life, Kenny Dalglish, in the summer – never before has the saying ‘you should never go back’ seemed more appropriate – the new man was always likely to be greeted with a ‘let’s see how this goes’ attitude rather than with open arms and the fan base seemed split on whether the former Swansea man represented a smart appointment or not.
Now it appears that those factions are growing ever further apart, with it becoming increasingly unclear if Rodgers is marriage material or actually just a rebound fling that was doomed from the start.
If we forget everything else but bare statistics, not even the infamously silver-tongued Rodgers can talk his way around the fact that Liverpool are currently ninth in the Premier League – below West Bromwich Albion and the Swans – are yet to beat a side currently in the top ten of the division and have been dumped out of both domestic cups in abject fashion.
Even as Dalglish toiled in the league post-Christmas, he managed to get to two cup finals, winning one, and at a base level there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of progress at Anfield so far.
There have been times when Liverpool have looked a very good side and have played some entertaining, attacking football, but if you can’t defend you aren’t going to win many matches.
The Reds deserved more in a pair of 2-2 draws against Arsenal and Manchester City but the fact is they didn’t get that and now have just one win in six, conceding at least two goals in five of those matches.
Of course, Rodgers talks a good game – in fact, he talks a great game – but can he play one at a club that expects so much? And even if he can, is he able to do it now and not in a few years’ time?
Goodwill is slowly turning to scepticism and Rodgers goes into the final third of the season with plenty to prove.
A run in the Europa League would help his cause, although the tie with Zenit is not an easy one, even if the Russians are having a rather strange season.
In fact, the hosts are favourites at 27/20 to win the match (Liverpool are 2/1 and the draw is 11/5) and that looks like a bet to me.
Liverpool have done well to get so far in this competition considering that Rodgers has often picked shadow sides including youngsters and reserves, but the knock-out stages represent a different challenge.
The Northern Irishman has picked a very strong squad to go to Russia, with only the ineligible Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho not making the trip, but whether Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard play remains to be seen and even with those two, the Merseysiders could struggle.
After a troubled start to the season, Zenit were getting their act together before their winter break, with Luciano Spalletti’s side losing just one of ten league matches, winning six, to clamber back in the title race, where they lie just five points adrift of CSKA Moscow.
Spalletti has a near-fully fit squad to choose from and with Hulk and Alex Witsel finding their feet and mercurial midfielder Danny back from injury, Zenit can keep up their tremendous European home record.
Zenit have lost just one of their last 19 games at Stadion Petrovskij in the Champions and Europa Leagues (to AC Milan), winning 14 of those matches, and a Liverpool side that has yet to beat a decent side all season (with the exception of Anzhi at Anfield) are going to find this one tough in the bitterly cold climate.
And with that in mind, the Russians look good things here at 27/20 to take a lead back to Merseyside for the second leg.