Thursday 29th April 2010
Europa League Semi Final 2nd Leg v Atletico Madrid (0-1 agg.)
This game comes at a time when Liverpool are in desperate need of something positive in order to salvage something from an otherwise frustratingly mediocre season.
On paper you might be fooled into thinking that tonights game should be a relatively straight forward European home tie against a mid-table Spanish team. However, following last weeks 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, Liverpool return once again to the hallowed turf of Anfield to do battle in front of their adoring fans knowing that only a win will do, and more than likely a minimum 2 goal margin will be necessary to overcome the opposition.
90 minutes from another European Final. Simple as that. Isn't it?
Steven Gerrard has described it as "a night for heroes". Having lost Fernando Torres to a recurrence of the injury that has dogged his season it now seems that Dirk Kuyt and David N'Gog look set to miss the return leg at Anfield. All eyes could be on Ryan Babel. The 'enigma', the 'frustrator', the 'hero'?
After he was expected to leave the club back in january following a public outburst on Twitter, Babel has turned his own fortunes around by firstly 'clearing the air' with the boss and then concentrating on working hard to get himself back in favour and back in to the team. Having played in all of Liverpool's European ties this season, Babel is hoping that he can be the man to drive his team to victory and ultimately another European Final in Hamburg on May 12th
"Heroes", Gerrard said. Not just players. Not just stars. Heroes. Every single one of those players must go out there tonight and give everything. Everything for their club. Everything for the fans. Everything for their team mates and everything for their Manager. The reward of a UEFA Europa League Final should be enough of an incentive shouldn't it.
So who do we turn to on nights like this?
Of course every player will need to be on top form but in my opinion there are 4 key influencers;
Solid, dependable and full of confidence. 16 clean sheets in the Premier League and within a game or two of earning yet another Golden Glove award. Having already put pen to paper on a new 6 year contract, Reina has demonstrated his long term commitment to the club which will no doubt send a positive message through the squad. Some might say the next club captain, he is certainly an inspiration to the team. On nights like this I would not want any other keeper between the posts.
The Stalwart. The heart of the defence. Arguably the ultimate defender. Never say die attitude. Would quite happily throttle the Queen if she was out of position for a corner. Gutsy, determined, passionate, solid. We need Carra on his game tonight commanding the line and once again giving his usual 110% for the team.
Captain Fantastic. Not been at his best for large portions of the season but in recent games he has started to show some of the old spark we are used to seeing. Recently he has been back in the goals. A brace against a beleaguered Burnley side adding to his confidence. Gerrard plays a pivotal role in the heart of midfield and can strike fear into the hearts of defenders when running forward, the team will look to their captain for more inspiration tonight. We need him on form. We need his drive and determination. We need him to lead by example, and a goal or two would be most welcome.
The 12th Man
Vociferous. Passionate. Knowledgeable. Encouraging. Awesome.
Arguably the best fans in the world, the 12th man has performed magnificently at times this season and will once again be called upon to lift the players. The noise generated at Anfield on European nights is, in a word, immense. Tonight the 12th man will sing, cheer, applaud and drive the team to victory. If any Liverpool fan leaves Anfield with his/her voice still in tact then they will feel they have not done their job.
Atletico will be up for this. They are boosted by the return of their star striker Sergio Aguero whilst the confidence is high with Diego Forlan after his scruffy effort was the difference between the two sides a week ago in the Vicente Calderon.
Liverpool will also be up for this. A 1-0 deficit is certainly not insurmountable and an early goal will settle the nerves and hopefully open the flood gates to a confident and well deserved victory.
Expect the Kop to shake the rafters and cheer the team to victory. Expect a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone to have the travelling fans left in awe of the noise and passion displayed by the home fans.
Nights like this are made for Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool Football Club is made for nights like this.
Bring it on!
- I'm a 30-something husband and father of 2 who has recently decided to have a go at blogging. I love watching pretty much any sport but my passion is football and in particular Liverpool F.C. If you're here then thanks for stopping by and I hope you find my words interesting and thought provoking. Any comments, feedback and constructive criticism is welcome.