Having scored 14 goals in the past three games, capped off with the best performance of the past two seasons on Sunday against Tottenham, Liverpool's confidence as high as it ever has been under Brendan Rodgers and the team has largely put a disappointing performance against Hull City behind them. Now, Jordan Henderson believes maintaining that confidence through the end of the month will be key.
"We have got to go in with a lot of confidence," insisted the midfielder when the club's official site asked him what comes next. "We've got Cardiff and I'm sure that will be a difficult game. They will make it difficult for us but we need to make sure we're on it straight from the start again. Then there are a couple of difficult games after that but we'll go into them very confident."
For most, those "couple of difficult games" will be the real test of this Liverpool side's credentials. A win against Cardiff will keep them on pace to break the 70 point barrier and, based on past Premier League seasons, to challenge for the top four no matter how they close out the first half of the season against Chelsea and Manchester City. Results in those matches, though, could see 2013 end with some aiming even higher.
First, though, there's the small matter of not stumbling against Cardiff, something that the last few seasons suggest should be a real concern. A few more goals to that end certainly wouldn't hurt with keeping the confidence high, either, but it's unlikely to get any higher than it is today, and Henderson is still feeling buoyed by the man of the match performance he put in against a Spurs side that struggled to deal with him.
"It was brilliant to play in," he said when asked about Sunday's match and his energetic, all-action performance in it. "I thought we dominated from start to finish. We were under pressure a couple of times, but we dealt with it really well defensively. We kept the ball really well and scored some brilliant goals. Thankfully I got one [of them] and hopefully I can get a few more."
After pushing his usual hard running performance up the pitch in support of Luis Suarez and seeing it rewarded with a goal and an assist, few would be surprised to see him do just that in the coming weeks. It also wouldn't be entirely surprising to see Joe Allen finally score a belated first league goal for Liverpool, as both Henderson and Allen impressed in their efforts to fill in for the injured Steven Gerrard.
It may never be ideal to lose a player to injury, but it can't be ignored that Liverpool's midfield this season has generally been set up to accomadate Gerrard, and at times that has meant that Henderson hasn't been put in the best positions to display his own talents while for Allen it has resulted in largely being consigned to the bench. If Sunday's starters want to give Rodgers a selection headache in the new year, though, they will need to continue to impress.
"It shows our depth in the squad," was Henderson's take on the job done by Liverpool's midfielders in Gerrard's absence. "The people that played were outstanding. Obviously Steven and Daniel [Sturridge] are massive misses because they are fantastic players and they bring a lot to how we want to play, but I think we coped very well. Now we've got some tough games coming up—we need to make sure we recover well and look forward to them."
Along with being another chance for Henderson to impress, a victory over Cardiff on Saturday would put Liverpool top of the table at least until next Monday when first-place Arsenal take on third-place Chelsea. For a Liverpool side that came into the season hoping to challenge for the top four, even the chance of being first over Christmas seems quite a present. Of course, there's still the matter of not stumbling against Cardiff—and holding onto their current confidence.