After a series of long breaks between matches due to THE MAGIC OF THE FA CUP!1 we get a pair of games crammed into four days, perhaps for the last time for the foreseeable future. I for one can't say I'm looking forward to the prospect of long off-weeks becoming the norm as things move forward, but for the time being, as friend of the blog Nate tweeted and blogger of the blog Ed retweeted (synergistic twitter account blatant self-promotion all up in this biatch), with March Madness taking off in America a busy sports weekend for many started with yesterday's disappointing performance. For those of us who either don't live in the States or just don't care about the magic of bouncy-throw-ball madness, I suppose that just leaves football, eating, sleeping, and watching the non-footballing world stretch its war and famine and pestilence and natural disaster muscles in preparation for a championship run in 2012. Which can be a curious and at times morbidly distracting pastime in itself, I suppose, but since around here we're mostly concerned with the football side of things...
* Well, at least Pepe Reina's saying the right things, as following the draw that dropped Liverpool out of Europe yesterday, he talked about where the club stands and what it has to do moving forward:
We have to bounce back now--that's football. It's not about how you get knocked out--it's about how you react. We're Liverpool and we have to react...
Of course fifth is still do-able. There are nine games to play and a lot of points. Tottenham are involved in the Champions League still and have plenty of games. Hopefully we'll win enough games to get fifth but of course everyone knows it's difficult.
You cannot say we are not going to play in Europe because fifth place is still available.
Suffice to say he sounds more optimistic than I--and I think most--feel. Whether or not he actually believes it or is simply being a good professional is another matter, but I'm sure we all hope it's the former and that it signals there's reason to hope he might stick around next year regardless of what happens. I suspect most of us would also like to believe that it might be something more than foolish hope or boilerplate professionalism when he talks about qualification for Europe still being a reasonable goal.
* Looking ahead to Sunday's match against Sunderland for a moment, Kick Off offers up a boatload of charts and graphs comparing the two sides. It would be nice to think of the match as a good opportunity for three points and a chance to keep European dreams alive, but if Sunderland lurking two spots and four points behind Liverpool in the table wasn't enough to suggest it could be a tricky road match for the Reds, the numerical comparison laid out side by side is reason for concern--even if Liverpool's numbers are skewed by their horrendous road form under Roy Hodgson. To whit: In 19 home games, Sunderland has scored 27 and conceded 19; in 19 matches on the road, Liverpool has scored 19 and conceded 28. Sunderland has scored an average of 1.4 goals a game at home; Liverpool an average of one on the road. Liverpool has lost 11 times on the road; Sunderland has lost only four games at home. And it's even scarier when viewed as a series of colourful pie charts and bar graphs.
* Meanwhile, remember, it could always be worse, as the internet's resident surrealist West Brom blogger found out when he sat down for a chat with his club's new manager:
I ask a few more questions about football: who are the biggest threats in the relegation scrap? What are you going to change tactically? Et cetera, but I get the same response: “****s, the lot of them,” and begin to see that what I initially misread as candour actually represents the ravings of a madman. I’m forced to cut the interview short when Hodgson takes a swipe at my face.
Clearly his time at Liverpool did some amount of irreparable harm to the man's psyche, as he's certainly evolved a much more aggressive trait or two since I last talked to him. One thing that is clear, however, is that however deranged the man becomes, he remains a compelling imaginary interviewee.
Well, onwards and upwards, then. Or not. In the meantime, while you struggle with the futility of a coldly violent and uncaring world lacking even the slight succor of regular mid-week football to distract you from it...
1 Look, seriously, I considered just capitalising the words all proper-title-like, but it just didn't seem striking enough for a cup so full of magic when full on capslock could be employed. And also, I couldn't remember if I should be capitalising "of" in a title or not and didn't feel like googling2 it, and moreover wasn't sure if a mocked-into-the-ground and probably trademarked phrase like that should employ standard title capitalisation procedures when it wasn't actually a title anyhow.
2 Take that lower case legal dilution of your name when used as a nounverb, Google! With Fowler as my witness, from this day forth I will help to genericize your trademark3 until people can google on Yahoo with impunity and you're the next Xeorx!
3 Unless you pay me4 to do otherwise, natch.
4 That goes double for you, Twitter, or I keep talking about tweets instead of Tweets.