It wasn't necessarily surprising to see Liverpool walk out of Anfield 3-1 winners over Cardiff yesterday, even if our collective anxiety had convinced us that this was a match that would see Liverpool struggle. History contributed to those worries, of course, but it's a strange thing to see the club operating in a consistently effective manner. Luis Suarez is responsible for a fair bit of that, of course, and before the where would Liverpool be without him brigade show up, just don't. He's at the top of his game and committed through at least the rest of this season (I think), but the work going on around him is at a level we haven't witnessed in a few years. Except set-piece defense. We see that every week since ever.
That whole "being confident" thing isn't happening too gracefully, at least for me, so this coming week should provide some tonic for the unsettling optimism I'm currently experiencing. Manchester City are scoring goals for fun against anyone, especially at home, and Chelsea are unbeaten at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho, and they just so happen to be Liverpool's next two opponents to round out 2013 away from Anfield. Oh. Fun.
And yet Brendan Rodgers is still talking confidence and results and top of the table. It's wonderful and terrifying:
"Now you can see that the players have real confidence in that way of working and, for us, it's brought us consistent results. We just can't ever think that we have cracked it. We can't become complacent. We've just got to keep focused and move onto the next game. We're very calm. We're focusing on improving our performance - that is the nature of our work. We know that the natural consequence of that will be to win games and if you win games then you are going to be in a good position. I said before now and I'll repeat again - I think it's unprecedented for a club to go from seventh to first. But I think in this moment in time, as we're sat at the top of the table, it shows the great work that the players and the football club is aligned to. We've got to just keep this momentum going."
What constitutes a continuation of momentum in such a difficult stretch is anyone's guess; few will expect maximum points from the next two, and general consensus seems to be that a point or two would be an acceptable return from their travels. That doesn't seem to be the sentiment from Rodgers (at least publicly) however, which is why he's the one in charge of the football club and I'm sat here eating tortilla chips in my underpants on a Sunday morning.
At this point Liverpool deserve to feel confident and expect to get results regardless of the opposition, even if we're so used to playing down their chances that it feels like a fever dream to say they should be earning points at City and Chelsea. Maybe they will, maybe they won't, but their body of work this season--and in 2013 as a whole--means that the confidence has a solid foundation, and if the manager's assertions about improvements during the campaign's second half come to fruition, this could be a week that pushes them forward further rather than halting the very significant strides they've made.