With the league campaign winding down without much to celebrate and everyone holding their breath waiting for the offseason craziness to kick off in earnest, it's been a quiet week of news from a Liverpool point of view. Still, there's always something out there if you look hard enough. And besides, it's not like you'd rather be doing work right now…
* For most, when it comes to picking Liverpool's player of the season it's a rather short list that begins at Martin Skrtel and ends at Martin Skrtel. Jose Enrique started strong but trailed off, Luis Suarez hasn't managed to finish consistently, and Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva have spent large portions of the season on the injury list. So while in a slightly different world where perhaps Liverpool didn't hit the post quite so often at least one of them might have ended up in the running, in the world Liverpool finds itself currently in it's hard to see past the imposing Slovak.
Skrtel, however, doesn't quite see it that way and has his own idea when it comes to who the player of the season should be. And really, would you want to argue with him?
It's very difficult to say. I don't think it's been our best season, especially in the league. Maybe Jose, he's played in nearly every game in the league and done well. Daniel is another. He was unlucky to get injured, but when he has played I think he's been very good. I think it's one of those two.
Giving the nod to the two men playing alongside him probably makes the most sense for Skrtel—after all, it would seem a touch unseemly to come out and say, "Yeah, I've been the best player here this year, what of it?" Because of that, there's probably more value to be found elsewhere in his latest interview with the official site, where when asked who he'd pick as the league's top defender this season and not just Liverpool's he picks Manchester City's Vincent Kompany.
Then again, to anybody with a pair of eyes and no conflict of interest, Kompany being the best defender in the league is probably as self-evident an answer as Skrtel being Liverpool's.
* Meanwhile, one of the players who would have seemed a lock to at least contend for player of the season a few years back is expected to make his return against Norwich, as Steven Gerrard's minor hamstring strain that kept him out of Sunday's match has turned out to be just that: Minor. Had it been a cup tie or had Liverpool's league placement been such that the game against West Bromwich Albion had mattered in the larger picture, in fact, there's every likelihood he would have played. Given that it wasn't and didn't, he was kept out as a largely precautionary measure as the club looks ahead to their FA Cup final against Chelsea in two weeks.
However, despite the clear intent by Dalglish and the medical staff to preserve the club's captain for a chance at silverware, it's an approach that seems at odds with recent statements from the captain himself suggesting that with Liverpool's league form rocky at best there's a need to focus fully on that front while forgetting about the upcoming cup game for at least the time being. For Gerrard perhaps it makes sense to say this. For the coaching staff and everyone else involved in running the club, however, it's probably best that Steven Gerrard wasn't the man in charge of deciding if Steven Gerrard and his tweaked hamstring were absolutely required to play last Sunday against West Brom.
* As for that upcoming FA Cup final, while the captain may not be quite ready to start looking ahead to it, for everybody else it's going to be a hard topic to avoid completely between now and next week when the real preparations begin. Part of that is because this morning in England it will be nearly impossible to avoid the celebrations of various punditry and news outlets after Chelsea took an aging team of malcontents adrift in sixth who cost Roman Abramovich nearly as much as Manchester City (and more than Barcelona's starting eleven) to put together and beat the reigning European Champions in an effort that would have made Tony Pulis cry tears of joy.
Or, in shorter sentences, Chelsea beat Barcelona. It wasn't pretty. Barcelona clearly aren't the team they were a few years ago. And John Terry's a dick. But the English media are treating it as though Tranmere Rovers defeated a cyborg recreation of the 1970 Brazilian national team. Oh, and it also caused commentator Gary Neville to have a very special on air moment we will henceforward refer to as The Nevillegasm.
In any case, for Liverpool fans looking for a silver lining in Chelsea finding something like form and confidence after the sacking of Andre Villas Boas, the pickings fall somewhere between nonexistent and no, seriously, they're nonexistent. This is in part because John Terry, Raul Meireles, Branislav Ivanovic, and Ramires will all be suspended for the final—which in any case doesn't come until two weeks after the FA Cup final this year—and with those four and Didier Drogba being arguably Chelsea's best players against Barcelona, there's little hope of Liverpool facing some kind of uninspired b-team on May 5th.
None of which makes it impossible for Liverpool to defeat them—far from it—but it does make Chelsea a tougher opponent than in earlier clashes between the two clubs this season. And after heading to Barcelona to knock out the reigning champions—no matter the specific circumstances—they do have to be considered clear favourites to win the FA Cup, something that may not have been the case a few short weeks ago.
We'll be back later with any breaking news, but in the meantime, enjoy Gary Neville making a noise you'll wish you'd never heard Gary Neville make (warning: possibly nsfw)…