With eight games to go in the season and a realistic chance at winning their first title of the Premier League era, the pressure on Liverpool will only grow with each passing game. Whether it's against Manchester United or Sunderland, each match really is the cliched cup final—and each match seems to take on a greater import than the one before it. So far, Liverpool's players have responded admirably to that pressure, but that pressure is only going to grow if they continue to win.
It's not just the pressure of winning some will be concerned about, as the season winding down means the first serious rumbles of transfer rumours and contract talk in the media at a time when most fans would like to simply focus on the league. From faintly ridiculous suggestions by Marca that Manchester City would seek to steal Luis Suarez away to concern over new deals for Glen Johnson and Daniel Sturridge, the league may be the thing but there will be distractions along the way.
"There will be no contract talks until the summer," was Brendan Rodgers' straightforward response when pressed on the issue of new deals for the likes of Sturridge and Johnson at his pre-Sunderland press conference on Monday. "The focus is for the club now, not for the contracts of any player of manager, though I think in the summer there will be a number of contracts that we will look and players the football club will want to retain the services of."
Much of the talk of late has revolved around the contracts of defender Glen Johnson as well as Brendan Rodgers himself, with both only having a year left on their current deals. Most remain confident a new deal for Rodgers will be signed shortly after the season ends, though with Johnson's high wages and recent injury troubles there's far less certainty on that front, while rumours of Madrid interest in the fullback will only muddy the waters further.
However, having scored 19 league goals already this season while on a relatively thrifty £65k per week deal, there is also a growing belief that the club will have to address Daniel Sturridge's contract over the summer despite that the striker's current deal runs until the summer of 2018. It may not be pressing in quite the same way as sorting out the futures of Rodgers and Johnson as their contracts wind down, but keeping Sturridge happy is certainly a priority.
Having scored six more goals in three fewer games this season than Wayne Rooney, on current form Sturridge is the best home-grown striker in the Premier League. His goal every 3.95 shots to Rooney's goal every 6.54 shots speaks to just how much better Sturridge has been over the past year compared to the man many still think of as England's best, and in that light, rumours the club are prepared to double his wages at least sound reasonable.
It still sounds as though it will have to wait until the summer to get done, though, along with a new deal for the manager and a decision on Glen Johnson's future one way or the other.