On paper this is an easy run-in. West Brom, Burnley, and Crystal Palace, 19th, 15th, and 13th, respectively. West Brom is already relegated. Burnley and Palace are already safe. Liverpool are the only team with anything to play for.
And yet, I’m nervous.
And not without reason.
The whole reason why Liverpool are in this desperate fight for fourth is because of inconsistency across the season. They’ve only managed three wins in a row twice this season, and now we’re asking them to run off five in a row.
Worse still, Liverpool have already dropped points to West Brom and Burnley earlier this season, both at Anfield no less. West Brom snuck a 1-1 draw with a late equalizer, and Burnley of all teams ended Liverpool’s ridiculous home unbeaten streak after being awarded a late penalty.
Whereas Liverpool saw off Palace 7-0 in one of the most bizarre matches of the season, it’s fair to say that there’s history there, both between the clubs and with the manager Roy Hodgson.
Speaking of the managers, while Hodgson, Big Sam Allardyce, and Sean Dyche would not be making the list of top managers you’d hope to see at your club, they all pose a similar problem for Liverpool.
They’re all the type of managers you hate to play when you’re nervous about a result. It’s unlikely that we’ll feel comfortable about the result in any of the next three matches until the final whistle blows. Even when these teams go down 1-0, they still time waste. They still frustrate. They’ll do everything they can to hang in there, hoping for a late equalizer (or more), which has been a pretty successful strategy against Liverpool this season, to be fair.
It’s weird to think that the Manchester United match at Old Trafford—one that usually fills Liverpool supporters with nervous dread—will probably be the most pleasant match to watch in the run in. But I digress.
However, there’s a flip side to this. These are exactly the types of teams and managers Liverpool were so good at beating the last two seasons, and the ones we’ll need to get back to beating next season if we hope to once again be challenging Manchester City (because no one else will).
Finishing the season with 5 straight wins, earning Champions League qualification along the way, and seeing off West Brom, Burnley, and Crystal Palace would give the Reds a massive psychological boost heading into next season. They could kick on and pretend this horrible, COVID-stricken season in front of no fans never happened.
It would also send a chill down the spine of other top sides in the league, when they learn that reports of Liverpool’s demise were premature.
It’s not an easy task, even if Liverpool were flying high. Teams always play Liverpool as if it were their World Cup final. For many of them, it is.
But these teams are already on the beach. Or they should be. We just have to remind them that they should be on the beach, and that they are none of our business. Our business is getting 9 points from the next 3 matches. Starting with a big 3 against Big Sam. Let’s do this.