Wednesday brings with it Liverpool's first home match since Swansea City visited Anfield on the 23rd of February. It's also Liverpool's game in hand on Chelsea. Win, and the Reds will be a mere point back of the London club with a potentially season-defining game still to come at Anfield at the end of April. It's no surprise then that Brendan Rodgers is expecting something of madhouse atmosphere, one that harkens back to some of the club's famous European nights.
"We're really looking forward to playing at Anfield now on Wednesday night," said the manager. "Hopefully the supporters can really get behind the team well before kick-off, get the atmosphere revved up for the game, and we'll look to continue on this great run. Cardiff was the fourth away game on the spin that we've won and we've played three games on the bounce away from home—Southampton, Manchester United, and now at Cardiff."
Liverpool were originally scheduled to play Sunderland at the beginning of March but the Black Cats' cup participation meant a postponement. It's meant spending the past month on the road, but having won those away games, it now means five of the club's remaining eight will be at Anfield, where Liverpool hasn't lost a game since September. Rodgers also sees a chance to prove any remaining doubters wrong as the club push for their first title of the Premier League era.
"I think since my time here, there have been various items thrown at us," said the manager. "When I first came in, it was that we haven't scored enough goals. Now it's been flipped and we concede too many. Do we have the character? Then we go on a run. Is the squad big enough? Do you have enough depth? Are the players fit enough? So I think there will always be these kind of questions, we will just continue focusing on our work."
Some of those items may not be entirely unreasonable, of course. Despite standing second in the table, Liverpool have the seventh best defensive record—yet they score so many goals it's certainly beginning to look as though that may not matter. Similarly, a busy December schedule showed that this isn't a squad deep enough to compete on multiple fronts—but then, brief dalliances in domestic cups aside, it hasn't been a squad asked to compete on multiple fronts.
There are fair questions and criticisms of this Liverpool side and its manager's approach, and the manager and his squad haven't so much proven those questions and criticisms wrong as rendered them irrelevant. Particularly when playing at Anfield, where Liverpool have performed like real title contenders almost from the very start of the season despite the occasional struggle with injuries and consistency and defence.
Now, after a month on the road, they're back. And they're bringing with them the chance to move within a single point of the top of the table with less than two months to go in the season. Whatever else happens on Wednesday, one imagines Rodgers will get his wish and Anfield will be very, very loud.