Football has a habit of making you look foolish just as you think things are going well, bringing managers and players crashing down to earth the minute you show a bit of bravado.
You feel like a mug when it happens to your club, but the schadenfreude involved is part of what makes being a fan so much fun and every supporter can recall particularly fond memories of their rivals looking stupid after spouting their mouth off.
Liverpool fans must have hoped that Brendan Rodgers would be aware of this and avoid saying anything particularly outlandish given the state of his Reds side, but alas, no, and as soon as he opened his mouth last Friday to suggest that his charges could finish in the top two of the Premier League, you knew exactly what was coming next.
And we weren’t disappointed. Liverpool were outplayed, out-thought and outfought by an Aston Villa side that began the match out of the relegation zone on goal difference alone and the 3-1 defeat at Anfield put the ludicrousness of Rodgers’ pre-match comments into a laughable context.
Rodgers has generally been impressive in front of the media, even if he does have a tendency to either a) stray into the sort of management speak that even David Brent would have second thoughts about spouting (“I see every player like a son”) or b) talk and talk for far too long until he says something he needn’t have said (“it would take a monumental offer for me to let Andy Carroll go”), but his latest comments were ridiculous and the former Swansea boss was left to look deluded and plain stupid.
There is nothing wrong with aiming high, especially as Liverpool boss, but Rodgers should know more than most that realism is the name of the game for his club at the moment.
Sat in 12th place in the Premier League, the Reds are well off fourth place, never mind the top two, and if he has any sense he’ll step back from his silver-tongued routine and concentrate on that old adage of one game at a time.
That next game is Fulham at Anfield, the second in what was supposed to be a run of ‘winnable fixtures’ that were going to propel Liverpool into Champions League contention.
With the first one ending shambolically, Rodgers needs a win over the Cottagers before games against Stoke, Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland, those other ‘winnable’ games, if the Reds are going to make any sort of progress towards the top end of the table.
I’m really not sure what constitutes a ‘winnable game’ for Liverpool anymore, but what I do know is that I won’t be touching the 53/100 about a home win and I’m just a bit gutted that it is Fulham who are heading to Anfield rather than a team with more about them on the road.
Liverpool are there to be opposed, but I’m not sure that Fulham are the side to really carry the fight to them. Martin Jol’s men are 11/2 (the draw is 14/5), but a combination of their perpetually bad away record and their current form means I am not tempted by those prices.
Fulham have been poor of late, winning just one of their nine games since beating Aston Villa in October. Jol’s side have lost four of the last six and Fulham have been terrible on their travels since long before the Dutchman arrived: the Cottagers have won just eight of their last 65 Premier League fixtures away from Craven Cottage.
So I’m not falling over myself to get involved with them given all that, even though I don’t really want to be backing Liverpool at odds-on when they have dire performances like the one against Villa in them.
Instead, I am going to swim against the tide and play the 23/20 that there are under 2.5 goals, which I see some value in. There tend not to be too many goals when Liverpool play at Anfield – just 20 goals have been scored in nine league fixtures, while five haven’t seen as many as three scored – and this fixture has a history of few goals.
Nine of the last 11 meetings between the two sides have seen under 2.5 goals, while the last five at Anfield have been 0-1, 1-0, 0-0, 0-0 and 2-0. After a flurry of goals in mid-autumn, Fulham have dried up and have scored just four in their last six, but they do have enough about them to keep a profligate Liverpool at bay.
And with overs priced up as short as 13/20, I’d rather go the other way by banking on a tight affair in keeping with tradition and I think at 23/20, under 2.5 goals is the play.