In a way, I'm glad that Liverpool decided to stomp out our hopes and fall apart sooner rather than later. Because I was beginning to believe. And belief is a dangerous, dangerous thing. Now that Champions League aspirations are out the window, and 5th place has been shot in the foot, we can all settle down a bit. From here on out, player progression and team improvements will be as important to me as actual results. So, without further ado, I present the things to look out for in the remainder of the season.
Will The New Guys Stay Hot: Already, the fireball formerly known as Daniel Sturridge has begun to cool off significantly. Sturridge hasn't scored since February 17th against an uninterested Swansea side, and the lack of goals has uncovered some of his less desirable traits. Too often in recent weeks he's had his head down in and around the box, seemingly more interested in getting back on the score sheet than setting up a teammate. There have also been large stretches of games where he's disappeared entirely. His overall play hasn't been too terrible, but at the same time it hasn't been nearly at the same level as his torrid start in red. Sturridge's performance over the last eight games will have a big impact on how he's perceived around Anfield going into the summer. Fellow newcomer Philippe Coutinho has yet to do anything wrong so far after his transfer from Inter. The youngster scored again against Southampton and has consistently flashed the expert vision and skill that just seems to flow out of Brazil. Because Liverpool are no longer in any other competitions, Coutinho's legs hopefully won't lose their freshness too quickly in the EPL. Every high quality performance that he delivers will get people talking more and more, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles the buzz.
Carragher Closes Career: Carra's last game at Anfield will surely be the most memorable part of the remaining season. SamFels admirably described his career and his meaning to the club in an article here, so definitely give that a read. It's nice that Carragher has found some form in the second half of this season to end his time with Liverpool on a high personal note.
Maintaining Health: It is of the utmost importance that Liverpool's key players stay away from the medical facilities in these final games. Because at this point we're a long shot from even fifth place, so I'm hoping that Gerrard and Lucas especially aren't pushed too hard. Both have a comprehensive injury history, and both have played a good deal of minutes lately. Seeing slightly more Hendo and Allen wouldn't bug me.
Lineups: Much like King Kenny last year, Brendan Rodgers has a decision to make when it comes to the starting eleven in a season without much left to play for. Will he stubbornly continue to put the same squad out there week after week? That's what Kenny did, and although in his mind that was the safe thing to do, it cost Liverpool a bit in the long term and may have been a factor in his summer departure. Rodgers has shown all year that he is unafraid of fielding young players, although early in the season he didn't have much choice. There is a fine line that he will have to walk on between throwing in the towel and missing a chance to let some of the young players develop with further EPL experience. I'd like to see a bit more of Suso and Sterling so they can regain some of the confidence they had early on.
Suarez: Suarez has a chance to lead the Premiership in goals scored. Right now he's at 22 and RVP is at 19. It would be nice to top United in something this year.
That's all I've got. If there are any good talking points that I've missed, put them in the comments.