While the semifinal success certainly caused a few of us to raise a glass somewhere, and probably put a bounce in our step. But the final grade on this season is still majorly hinging on how the finish in the league is, and quite simply Liverpool have to pick it up, especially at home. Luckily, they get to do that tomorrow against the hottest team in the league next to Spurs. Wait a minute, what?
That's right. Stoke have only lost one of their last nine domestic league and cup games, that being to Man City. They've even beat Tottenham in that span, and rather easily. They've also sorted their wonky away form, which spent the better part of the year being laughable. None of this is good news.
While you don't revel in injuries of others, Stoke's casualties will make any Liverpool supporters' ears perk up. Woodgate, Wilson, and Shotton are all uncertain to play, which would greatly weak Stoke's backline. And Liverpool need all the help they can get concerning scoring at home. Which i thought is where you're supposed to do a majority of your scoring, but i digress...
However, Stoke's front line will be just fine. Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch are both there to frankly be a blunt nuisance, and Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington to provide the fodder. If only Andy Carroll got half the crosses that these two will, eh?
For Liverpool, the questions are what will they change in defense to deal with the Cave Troll Attack of Stoke, and who starts in midfield. The latter is one we deal with every game. The former is more pertinent, probably. Dalglish has usually tossed out a goofy defense to deal with Stoke. Last season, it was the debut of the 3-4-1-2/3-4-2-1. At Stoke earlier in the year, it was Agger at left back with Carragher and Skrtel. I'm guessing all three of Agger, Skrtel, and Carragher will play. Whether that's three-fourths of a back four or all of a back three, I have no idea.
As for midfield, it will simply be who is fit and ready. Gerrard and Bellamy have put in two 90 minute shifts in five days, so they might not have the gas. Jay Spearing won't at all, we know that much. Adam and Henderson have played a lot of football. Shelvey looks a cert. Maxi and Kuyt haven't thrilled anyone, and Maxi is far better used with Suarez and Bellamy. Downing, as disappointing as he might have been against City, should go if Carroll is starting. And he is.
We'd like the good times to keep rolling. That first leg triumph will taste even better if it begins a run of wins in the league, which Liverpool are going to need in this four horse race for fourth. The league stretch for the next three should be sweepable. The one tough game is here with Stoke, and it's at home. Then at Bolton and at Wolves. Of course, the Manchester Cup Double is in the middle of that, but let's worry about that later.
Stoke are always a tough slog, but last time they came to Anfield was one of the more satisfying wins of that year. Let's do it again.