A Point For Sturridge & Suarez To Prove?

After they were muzzled by Arsenal last time and with their relatively poor record against the top three this season, it's a Big Weekend for Daniel Sturridge & Luis Suarez...

Last Updated: 07/02/14 at 08:22 Post Comment

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Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers ruling Liverpool out of the title race this week was probably a sensible thing to do - if only because they seem to have lost every time he bigged them up this season - but it wasn't exactly a necessary statement. Liverpool's target this season was never the title, but rather qualifying for the Champions League.

Liverpool's results thus far this season basically fit the profile of a fourth-placed team. The odd slip here or there aside, they have beaten the teams below them and lost to those above. The latter point is something that they could improve this weekend as Arsenal visit, and perhaps the biggest concern for Rodgers is how his defence will cope with their opponents' assorted attacking threats.

The last-minute nature of it aside, one of the more curious aspects of Liverpool's deadline day chase for Yevhen Konoplyanka was that they were even trying to buy another attacking player, rather than a defender. They could do with at least one full-back and probably a central defender as well, at least in the short term, given the injuries to Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sahko, and the continuing incompetence of Aly Cissokho.

Kolo Toure made a valiant attempt to step into Cissokho's clown shoes against West Brom at the weekend, pushing a slide-rule pass straight into the path of Victor Anichebe to surrender what would have been two more valuable points. That sort of japery will be even more damaging if Liverpool try it in the vicinity of Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil or Santi Cazorla.

In addition, if you believe in this sort of thing, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge might have a point to prove against Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, given how effectively they were muzzled in the corresponding game at the Emirates in November. Sturridge and Suarez mustered just two shots on target between them in that game, and it's the only league game the pair have started together this season when one or other of them haven't scored.

Indeed, Suarez didn't score against Manchester City or Chelsea either, perhaps a big reason for Liverpool's relatively poor form against the other contenders at the top of the table.

A victory over Arsenal will not mean Liverpool are anything close to title contenders, but it would be a significant boost for their realistic aim for the season.


Arsenal
And so begins a month that learned sorts with spectacles and clipboards are calling a 'doozy' for Arsenal. Saturday's game against Liverpool is followed by Manchester United at home, Liverpool again in the FA Cup, Bayern Munich in the Champions League then Sunderl...oh, well, okay, it tails off a bit towards the end.

Nevertheless, you would think that the coming weeks will define Arsenal's season. It would be quite a let-down if the hope of the first half of the campaign was to fizzle out without a trophy or something vaguely tangible, but it's not implausible to think that Arsenal could be basically out of all three remaining competitions in a couple of weeks. That might be a bit dramatic in regards to the league, but if they lose their games against Liverpool and United, Chelsea (who face Newcastle and West Brom) and Manchester City (Norwich and Sunderland) will probably open a four-point gap, one that will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible to close in a hurry.

"This is a massive month for us," said Arsene Wenger this week.

"When you are in a good position to fight for something, the closer you get to the end of the season, every game becomes vital and every point is important.

"We have fought very hard up until now to be in this position, so let's enjoy it and do our best."

A simple enough declaration, but sometimes simple is best.


Garry Monk and Alan Curtis
Nothing like being chucked in at the very deep end, eh? The dismissal of Michael Laudrup may have been a sensible decision, as I wrote here, but replacing him 'for the forseeable future' with a man who has never coached before and another who has never managed before (aside from a brief caretaker spell ten years ago) is quite a gamble from Huw Jenkins.

There seem to be many reasons for Laudrup's sacking, but the most pertinent one for Monk and Curtis is their utterly rotten form. They have won just one in the last ten, and that was against Fulham, one of the only teams in worse nick at the moment.

They have to not only figure out a way to stop Swansea losing, but also a way to get someone other than Wilfried Bony scoring goals. Bony has seven in the league, but do you know who their second top-scorer is? Own goal. That, friends, is desperate.

"I know this club inside out and I will try and use that knowledge to the betterment of Swansea City," said Monk this week.

"I also know how important this football club is to the fans. They are the important ones in all this and we will all fight every inch of the way for them."

All very nice, chest-beating stuff, and it might do them some good for a derby game, but passion and 'knowing where the kettle is' (as Curtis said when asked if he'd follow Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool) will not be enough to drag them from their current predicament.


Chico Flores
Playing for a man who you definitely did not throw a brick at in a training ground dust-up? Flouncing over after having the top of your head wafted on by Andy Carroll? Then going on a Twitter whingespurt to complain about West Ham playing ropey football?

Suddenly all (or at least some more) eyes are on Boy Flowers.


South Wales police
Swansea v Cardiff kicks off at 5.30 on Saturday afternoon. So...all the best with that one, chaps.


Rene Meulensteen
The good news for the Fulham manager is that a good part of the pressure will be off as his team visits Old Trafford on Sunday. Most of the build-up will focus on him returning to the club he made his name at, while the chap in the other dug-out has a few problems of his own that will probably feature in the media at some point.

The bad news is that, according to one (admittedly, rather 'excitable') newspaper on Thursday, Meulensteen has two games to save his job, with Alan Curbishley said to be waiting eagerly in the wings.

While it was a much-changed team that lost to Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Tuesday, and thus it's tricky to draw too many conclusions, their performance seemed to sum up their season as a whole. They were slow, ponderous, lacking in wit and seemingly completely incapable of breaking down a team who are currently in the League One relegation zone.

It's quite possible that, by the time they play on Sunday afternoon, Fulham could be five points adrift of safety. It's not looking good for Rene and his men.


David Moyes
Given what Moyes has said about the quality of his squad, or lack thereof, he would presumably urge everyone not to judge him until next season when he actually has the players he wants at his disposal.

Still, if he doesn't qualify for the top four, he will be known as the man who took Manchester United from champions to the Europa League, if they're lucky.

And, as previous games this season have showed, a game against relatively lowly opponents at Old Trafford is not the gimme three points it once was.


Newcastle
A few weeks ago, Newcastle were riding (relatively) high, Alan Pardew was being praised by some as a beacon of British managerial hope and they had a couple of central midfielders that were back at peak form and the envy of some of Europe's top clubs.

Now, they have won just one of the last six, have just had their arses handed to them by their local rivals and both of those midfielders will be absent from their game against Chelsea at the weekend. Yohan Cabaye has of course been sold, while Chieck Tiote will miss a few games with a hamstring injury.

Just another swing of the Newcastle pendulum, really.


Manchester City
Arsene Wenger was right when he said that City looked 'jaded' in their defeat to Chelsea on Monday. Chelsea were excellent and carried out Jose Mourinho's plan well, but they were largely allowed to by a surprisingly passive City.

However, there are no real alarm bells going off just yet, and luckily for them, they have Norwich this weekend, the ideal game with which to wash away the grubby marks of defeat.

Of course, if they make a mess of this one as well...


Spurs and Everton
These two sides are outside bets to qualify for the Champions League, given the quality of the sides above them, but both have a chance to give the other quite the bloody nose this weekend.

As Sarah Winterburn wrote here, Everton aren't plucky outsiders anymore, and their win against Aston Villa last weekend after the shellacking by Liverpool said plenty about their resillience.

However, a win over Spurs would be another step entirely. Tim Sherwood's meat and potatoes approach has largely paid off, but they have wobbled slightly after that 5-1 beating by Manchester City and the 1-1 draw at Hull last weekend.

It might be harsh to describe this as a clash of the nearly-teams, but whoever comes out on top will go some way to dispelling that talk entirely.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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think all those names linked to United exits make sense. Kagawa has never really looked like hitting the form he had at Dortmund and Fellaini is radioactive after last season (even though I think he's been unfairly singled out for criticism). Nani and Anderson have had more than their fair share of chances so they are done, and Hernandez deserves better than warming a bench.

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e'll be off to Spurs (or better) in January and I don't blame him. Looking forward to re-signing Grant Holt as his replacement though.

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Benteke ignoring speculation

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n fairness, he does look absolutely shattered in that photo.....

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