As far as the football goes, meaning has been a somewhat elusive concept for Liverpool and its supporters. Brendan Rodgers brought a philosophy or system or something, and that creates some sort of ethos, but a large portion of meaning in football is explicitly tied to having something to actually play for. By that standard, the past few seasons have been especially cruel, with domestic cup finals last year explained away as meaningless and a lack of success in both league and European cup competition.
They're winding down the 2012-2013 season in similar fashion, and while there's a sense that something's moving in a direction resembling positive, there's still a distinct lack of anything to play for. Pride's one thing, and Liverpool have been able to stir that up in matches against sides further up the table, but a tangible reward--a trophy, European qualification, etc.--seems once again off the table.
It's got to be a tough spot for a manager, particularly one in his first season with a club who aspires to so much more than they've been able to achieve over the past decade. And to his credit, Rodgers has been able to maintain an intensity in his approach, at least publicly, making assurances that there won't be any letdown in Liverpool's preparation, approach, or application during the season's final weeks:
"There will be no shortage of motivation for us. Every game between Liverpool and Chelsea is a big game and Sunday will be no different. There will be all sorts of emotion on the day but once the game starts the players will be very focused. The boys are really looking forward to playing at Anfield again and we feel that we can win every game there. There will be a brilliant atmosphere and we'll be up against a very good Chelsea side.
"This is another opportunity for us to show we have the qualities to beat one of the sides up there challenging. We've got five games left and we want to win all five. It's very important for us to finish the season as strongly as we can. Okay, we won't have a trophy this season but it's about putting a platform in place for next season."
What separates Liverpool right now--and maybe this is just some sort of silly semantic thing--is the belief that they can beat or challenge the teams that are near the top of the table and the belief that they can actually be one of the teams near the top of the table. It'd be vastly overestimating the current squad to expect or believe that they could put in a true title challenge or solidify themselves in the top four, hence the realization that nipping points off sides like Chelsea and the Manchester clubs might the most to which they can aspire.
But the belief that they can achieve more requires the building of an evidence base, and even if they don't believe it at this point, results against top-level opposition can at least help Liverpool to entertain the possibility that they're working their way back. They'll still need the results, of course, but if the belief matches up with the quality, it's not too fanciful to think that Liverpool could