It's Friday. Lucas is still injured. It wasn't a dream, a bad trip, or a mass hallucination. The collective unconscious didn't suddenly sprout arms, legs, and a sense of self and decide to play a cruel trick on Liverpool fans. Still, there's stuff floating around out there to talk about that doesn't involve talk of ACLs and MCLs and MRIs. Mostly, at least…
* First up, lost beneath the news of Lucas' injury against Chelsea in the League Cup was news of the club Liverpool would face off against because they defeated Chelsea in the League Cup. Everybody seemed to think it a foregone conclusion that once Manchester United cruised past Crystal Palace they'd end up drawing Cardiff City in the two-legged semi-final. Except then United went and screwed it all up by losing to Crystal Palace, leaving papers everywhere to instead talk of Alex Ferguson's latest humiliating cup defeat ten months after his club bombed out of the FA Cup at home to Leeds and left papers everywhere talking of Alex Ferguson's latest humiliating cup defeat.
Still, the winner of the United-Palace match did indeed go on to draw Cardiff City in the next round, ensuring that at least one lower-league side will make it to Wembley for the February final. All of which is an incredibly roundabout way of saying that Liverpool will face the other quarter-final winners, Manchester City, in the next round. On the one hand, facing City's billions minus Lucas after his stellar efforts shutting down Yaya Toure and David Silva in the league last week seems a daunting task. But on the other, it's likely that Liverpool would have had to defeat City one way or the other in order to win the competition, and it's not as though City will be thrilled to have drawn Liverpool and not one of the Championship sides. Plus the second leg of the tie is at Anfield, and besides, given Liverpool's tendencies in recent years one might rather expect them to perform better against City than they would against either of Palace or Cardiff.
The first leg will be on Wednesday, January 11th in Manchester, with the return fixture at Anfield on Wednesday, January 25. As for fixture congestion, after both sides play six league games in December it means potentially another eight in January, with four league matches to go along with the two-legged cup tie and at least one round of FA Cup action—with a second round in January should the first be won. At least this time around there's never less than two days off between matches, though any way one comes at it it's still a massive pileup. As for Manchester City being set to play in the knockout phase of either the Champions League or Europa League, neither European competition starts up again after group play until the middle of February, so there's no edge to be found for Liverpool there.
* We've talked at times of Jamie Carragher's love of the long ball, and it's been noted on occasion that in many ways he can seem rather a throwback to an earlier age—both for good and ill. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise to many that in the wake of Lucas' injury it is Carragher who's come out first to talk of the Brazilian midfielder's importance to the club:
For the last 18 months, in my opinion, he has been our best player. Luis Suarez has come in and done great things for the club but Lucas has been his equal in many ways. He has been as good as anyone in the team this season and there is no question he will be a big miss.
I have been there in terms of receiving criticism. High standards are expected when you play for one of the big clubs and there are plenty [of] examples of players who have gone missing after realising the demands on them. But you can tell Lucas is a top player as he never lets that bother him. He has just got on with it and plays in nearly every game. If he has a little knock, he will always try and carry on, doing his best for us. There are lots of different characters but you can't fault Lucas'.
It's hard to argue with any of that, even if the days when Carragher seemed loath to hand the ball off to Lucas when he could instead just empty it don't seem all that long ago.
* After saying there was stuff to talk about that mostly doesn't involve Lucas, I think I've instead gone and talked about things that mostly involve Lucas in some way. Which is kind of awkward. Though maybe not as awkward as Suarezgate, which is apparently still going on—and still nowhere near being resolved one way or the other—two weeks after the FA decided there was enough evidence to go ahead with a full hearing and more than six weeks after the actual incident took place between Suarez and Manchester United's Patrice Evra. Oh, and it might not get resolved any time soon, either:
In ordinary circumstances, the FA would appoint a three-man panel consisting of an independent chairman, an FA councillor and someone described as a "football expert", meaning a former player or manager. The Guardian, however, has learned the FA may upgrade to a four-man commission because of the complexities of a case in which Suárez can, if necessary, point out he comes from a country where variations of the N-word are used very differently, and that it is actually quite common in Uruguay for men and women of all skin colours to have the nickname of El Negro or La Negra without any racist undertones...
No date has been set for the hearing and, with legal teams to assemble, a row that began between two rival players on a football pitch on 15 October could very likely go beyond Christmas.
Right, so it's a race between Suarezgate and Steven Gerrard's infected ankle in a battle of interminably dragged-out headaches. Or footaches. Or something. In any case: Fun.
I'm sure we'll have happier news to pass along later. Unless the trend of the past few days continues and we don't, of course. Though if that's the case we may just give up on this football lark and switch to talking about something more cheerful. Like social equality and the looming crisis between the West and Iran. But either way that's for later, so in the meantime…