IN writing about Bordeaux at home in the Europa League you are writing about Swansea City at home in the Premier League.
Because you know, don’t you. You know aspects of the study that shows the impact Europa League games has can be hotly disputed but you also know, from watching, from paying attention, from being alive, the impact — the profound impact — the Europa League has on sides.
You know that we are made less likely to beat Swansea City by having to play this bloody stupid game against Bordeaux and you know you should want Liverpool to beat Bordeaux. You do want Liverpool to beat Bordeaux. Of course you do. You’d want Liverpool to beat a Mother Teresa Tribute XI. You’d want Liverpool to smash that side to smithereens.
You know that only two days between matches damages the prospects for the side in the next games, especially when they have had a week to prepare, as Swansea City have, even with a manager who is rocking.
My condolences to all the teams that have qualified for the Europa League. Hopefully, your National League performance won't suffer too much
— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 31, 2012
You want to beat Bordeaux, you want to sit in that cold ground and watch hot Reds wheel around the pitch. You want to win every trophy it is possible to win but you know the reality of knockout football is that one bad half kills you, even over two legs, and everyone has one bad half in them.
You know the Europa League isn’t the UEFA Cup; the UEFA Cup with its pomp and circumstance. It isn’t the UEFA Cup that Gerard Houllier won, let alone the one Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley won. You know this.
You know the old maxim that Liverpool FC exists to win trophies but you surely know there is a hierarchy. There has to be. You know the old UEFA Cup didn’t need to dangle a Champions League qualification place. Because winning it meant so much. You know you can’t have it both ways. You know that.
You want to take this mediocre French side apart — they were putting a show on at their place against Brendan Rodgers’ ennui-filled Reds. That was the best they could do. You want to beat them and progress. You want it, don’t let anyone tell you you don’t. You want it. Of course you want it.
But you need to beat Swansea City.
You need Liverpool Football Club to beat Swansea City.
You need The Reds to beat Swansea City because you feel your tail twitching. You feel your hindbrain prickle, you look at a league table — six behind City, six behind Arsenal, and you know The Reds have played in Stoke.
You know The Reds have played in North London twice. They’ve played in Manchester twice. They wiped the floor with Chelsea. They’ve faced and fronted the Old Lady across the Park. She was rocking, she always is, bless her, but the Reds held firm.
And since then, The Reds have become hungrier. They are The Hungry Reds.
You need to watch The Hungry Reds win a home league game. You need that more than you’ve ever needed anything from a football team. You need to watch them do it well. You need to watch wave after wave, swagger, quality chances, calm finishes. You need to see a marker laid down. You need to see a big point made, not a sole point settled for.
You know the game is afoot. You look around the domestic mediocrity that cannot get its act together and you know that while it takes everything, everything may not be as difficult as it once was. Not once you focus down on what matters.
You know what matters.
You know the game is afoot. You need the game to be afoot. How many more years of this do you have left in you; after Saturday night stumbling, dancing, falling, singing, leaping? A Saturday you still felt on Monday, grinning inanely, reacting slowly, replaying backheels and dummys in your mind in an office, clutching ibuprofen like dreams, taking dreams like ibuprofen.
You need that fizz through your body. You need it to be a joy to be alive that day my friend. You know The Hungry Reds have forced the door ajar. You need them them to kick it down. To kick it in.
You know that only one thing matters. Only one thing can. You know you are old, you are so very old, and you know you haven’t seen Liverpool lift a league title while you are an adult and you know the clock is ticking, you know the clock is ticking like Marisa Tomei’s foot stamping in front of Joe Pesci and you know as she did what you need. The information comes from your heart. The information comes from your stomach. Your stomach tells you that you need another go at climbing the mountain. You know you cannot argue.
You need The Hungry Reds. To do the thing. To try to do the thing. To give everything to do the thing.
And so let Bordeaux be a sacrificial lamb for Swansea City. Let Liverpool Football Club pick an 11 that makes it clear where the priorities lie. Let their priorities be yours. The league. Nothing but the league.
Let it at least be a training game for Swansea City. Let those who would moan about complacency moan. You know what matters. Let it get the blood pumping about what we might do to Swansea City. Let it be a blueprint for how we take the rest of the season on — a season that will be defined by home league performances.
You play the goalkeeper. You play Leiva because he can’t play against Swansea City and you let them come and adore him.
You play Toure and you play Ibe. You decide who plays against Swansea City and you perhaps play Lallana against Bordeaux. You probably play Benteke for 60 and you definitely play Allen for 90.
You play Lovren because he needs it and you play Randall because he wants it. You probably have to play either of the full backs, god damn you, and you see if you can play a young midfielder alongside the steadiness of Allen and Lucas.
You need everyone else sharp.
Let Bordeaux be got out of the way with a minimum of fuss and an absence of injury. Let Bordeaux be a warm-up for the real business.
The real business happens mostly on Saturdays and Sundays. The only game in town.
You know you’ll sleep tonight. You may not do before Swansea City.
You know that that is the thing about The Reds, The Hungry Reds, that if they give you a sniff, a sniff of what you need, a sniff of what you crave, you’ll take a mile. You’ll probably end up looking stupid. You don’t care. Dignity left town a long time ago. That’s part of what happens when you crave.
You know I need you more than want you.
And I want you for all time.
You can’t help it. It is what being part of this thing is about, dreams and tales and hopes and delusions. You can be deluded. You don’t care. It’s time the tale were told, of how you took a child and made him old. Reel around the title. Tomei stamping on a patio.
Fifteen minutes with it. You wouldn’t say no.
Editor’s note: Bordeaux, meanwhile, 13th in the French league, are in the middle of an injury crisis, have lost five out of five in England in recent-ish times without scoring a goal and haven’t won away in Europe in nine attempts. Victory for the Reds, who will be without Coutinho (hamstring), Mamadou Sakho (knee) and Jordan Henderson (foot), will see them qualify for the last 32 with a game to spare. Jürgen Klopp said in his press conference that Daniel Sturridge is edging closer to full fitness and Martin Skrtel is “a little ill”.
Match Details: Kick off: 8.05pm, Thursday, November 26. Tickets still on sale to members, available in Anfield Road, Main Stand and Centenary Stand. Details here. Live on BT Sport Europe.
Odds: Liverpool 1/2; Draw 3/1; Bordeaux 6/1.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo