Reality, as perceived through the blinding fog of a migraine, can be flummoxing. Over the course of the last few hours of injurious wakefulness, your penman has watched the clock tick from one to three whilst the cursor flashed defiantly in the top left hand corner of a maddeningly blank page. Normally, such a case of writer's block would have induced a panicked response. This morning, it has been almost therapeutic, an opportunity to stop and think. Despite a maelstrom of personal troubles about which to obsess, however, only one thought could find any traction. Who the hell plays on Sunday?
In recent months, blogs, phone-ins and message boards with a Liverpool bias have been dominated by the vexatious topic of whether or not Steven Gerrard should play in the centre of our midfield. Well, fate has intervened, and the captain's unfortunate but eminently predictable groin affliction means that Brendan Rodgers heads into a moiling and arduous run of fixtures without the captain playing in any role. Folk should be careful what they wish for.
The manager had already figured on the absences of José Enrique and Daniel Sturridge and will have been hugely relieved to stem the onset of an injury apocalypse with news that Daniel Agger has recovered from illness and Jordan Henderson was not, in fact, broken by Kevin Nolan's idiotic challenge last weekend. Henderson had spent the early part of the week sporting a protective boot following the renowned chicken dancer's attempt to detach the Sunderland native's lower leg from the rest of his ever-motile body.
The ongoing rehabilitation of Joe Allen's Anfield career is a source of consolation and encouragement to most of us and Lucas Leiva, although still not at the peak of his powers, is a reliable presence in the central area of the field, but not many Liverpool fans will have been relishing the idea of Tottenham's army of athletic centrocampistas swarming all over those two alone. If Liverpool's enforced remodeling of the midfield is to stand any chance of succeeding at White Hart Lane, Henderson's particular brand of perpetual motion will be a vital element.
Brendan Rodgers, looking fit enough these days to slot in to the holding role were he required, explained that Henderson's elaborate footwear at the start of the week was precautionary and not a sign of anything more sinister. The England man suffered a badly bruised ankle as a result of Nolan's assault and, despite playing on to notable effect in its wake, Henderson suffered a reaction after the game.
"Jordan trained on Thursday so we're expecting him to be fine for Sunday," Rodgers said. "It was just precautionary the last few days. It was a bad challenge that was made on him, but thankfully he's okay."
Daniel Agger, meanwhile, has recovered from a bug which kept him out of the West Ham game. The Danish international captain will have been immensely frustrated by his absence from the last match, having only just reclaimed a starting berth. Most would like to see the classy defender start, and his role as club vice-captain may swing the balance in his favour, with Gerrard's absence weighing heavily on the squad.
Mamadou Sakho, following his assured and dominant displays in red thus far would be favoured by many fans alongside Agger but with Martin Skrtel and Kolo Touré also available, one wonders if Rodgers may be tempted to use his three-at-the-back system once more in an attempt to people the team with experienced and physically imposing performers.
Irrespective of Rodgers final selection, the goal is simple -- Liverpool must put an end to the lamentable run of results at Tottenham's place. With four games in a fortnight and three of those away to top four rivals, it's not in any way sensationalistic to suggest that the next two weeks have the look of one of those season defining stretches one hears about. On the 1st of January, Liverpool welcome the bulbous-headed Steve Bruce and his Hull charges to Anfield for a little spot of score-evening. Should the Redmen still be happily perched in the upper echelons of the table as that match kicks off, it will have been a very happy Christmas indeed, with the promise of an even more propitious new year.