Liverpool's Premier League campaign has been a bit of a lost cause for some weeks now, but that doesn't mean there's nothing left to play for while we await the coronation of Leicester City / yet another Nicholas Sparks film adaptation / the End Times (whichever comes first). Against the odds and arguably against the run of play, Liverpool find themselves with a realistic chance of adding some silverware to the collection this season. Real silverware, not the Fair Play League trophy.
The second leg of their current Europa League matchup will come first, and if Liverpool can find a way past a resilient Augsburg side, a Capital One Cup final against Manchester City awaits. One man who knows a thing or two about big cup matches and how they can define as season is Robbie Fowler, and in speaking to the Liverpool Echo, the former striker shared his thoughts on how a Wembley win could be the start of something special.
"Liverpool's players have got a great chance - even though we know it's going to be a tough game - but they are 90 minutes away from winning what would be a first trophy with the club for many of them. That could give them a little more self-belief to progress in terms of the league form."
Fowler is certainly no stranger to success in the Capital One Cup (a.k.a. the League Cup), having once put five past Fulham in the 1993-94 iteration of this competition as an eighteen year-old. Years later, Fowler would go on to put in a man-of-the-match performance in the 2001 League Cup final win against Birmingham City. Liverpool supporters will remember that trophy as paving the way for a historic triple over the course of that particular season, with dramatic victories over Arsenal in the FA Cup final and Deportivo Alavés in the UEFA Cup final still to come.
If Liverpool can navigate a potentially tricky fixture against Augsburg and follow that up with a win over Manchester City at Wembley, their supporters will be hoping that history can repeat itself, and that the first trophy of the season can serve as a launching pad for Europa League success. In order to have any hope of making a deeper run in that competition, however, Liverpool need their forwards to start scoring with more consistency. Fowler had some thoughts on that topic as well, and in particular on Christian Benteke, who appears to be grappling with a bit of a confidence crisis.
"I do believe you don’t become a bad player overnight. There have been a few things going against him. Even over Christmas when he scored the winner in successive games against Leicester City and Sunderland, he missed two one-on-ones.
People ended up talking more about them than the goals he scored. If you aren’t scoring many goals, if you aren’t at the top of your game, if you’re struggling for confidence, then those one-on-ones aren’t the chances that you want to be having. Instead of being the hero with his two winners, he’s instead seen his confidence shot to pieces because of those two one-on-ones.
As a forward, you are going to miss chances. But you have to be big enough and strong enough to accept that, accept the criticism because I’ve yet to see a forward who doesn’t miss chances."
Sound advice from a legend who has had his share of ups and downs during his career. It's not news that, at least on paper, Liverpool have striking options who should trouble most opposing defenders That those strikers haven't done so consistently is perhaps a function of injury, rust, confidence and tactics. With some of those players now gradually returning to health and match fitness, and with two proverbial big matches around the corner, Liverpool will look to build on that elusive confidence and see where that takes them.