WHERE to start. The match at Wembley has destroyed my week and my life. The pain is too much to bear. I rarely go out these days. I can’t communicate with my family and friends are becoming fading memories. This is all since Sunday tea-time.
And then I realise there’s another game on Wednesday night. Against Manchester City. And I am reborn. Brought back from my brink. Thank Christ for crowded fixture lists.
It will be good to see City again. How I’ll have missed you boys in the three long days since our paths last crossed. By about 5pm Wednesday I will be bouncing off the walls with excitement.
As weird a backdrop to a big game as I can remember. The losing of a cup final as a preface to a match that — whether we want to face up to it or not — defines our Premier League campaign from here on in.
I’d guess few of you have done the numbers on this. I have. We beat this lot and there’s just six points between us and them — and 11 games still to play.
We aren’t exactly a marauding red machine that just hauls in deficits like that without blinking, but it’s a target that you don’t just give up on.
We win and we can start to view a fairly kind run-in with some optimism. City have away games and bigger tests than us ahead. They also have to consider the demands of a Champions League assault.
Win and the world will seem a far better place by Thursday morning than it was on the Monday just passed.
City themselves might ordinarily view a draw at Anfield as no bad outcome. They’ve tasted defeat at ours on the last two visits. This time though they’ve been cut adrift in the title race and it isn’t too melodramatic to conclude that failure to win on Wednesday night may see them all but out of the contest.
A draw then looks fuck all use to anyone. Cagey sparring can do one. This game looks like it surely has thrills, spills and goals in it. It could well be a nonsense of a contest. One that deludes the lay person that a goals fest is always what you want.
Tired, confused men will cross the line. Their lot will be happy but jaded by putting two big shifts in over the course of a few days.
Injuries to Manuel Pellegrini’s squad mean that he will either be unreasonable with his first 11 or make wholesale changes to a level that might (hopefully) render City unrecognisable.
He can shake up three of his back five nicely, it must be conceded. Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov are minimum like-for-like replacements for Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy.
In central midfield, there are bigger fish to fry. Word is that Yaya Toure is goosed, leaving Fernando and Fernandinho little option but to put their hands up again.
Pellegrini, without any further trustworthies for the central positions, may well look to a more attacking shape, and throw the kid Kelechi Iheanacho in up front.
Sergio Aguero was mustard at Wembley. Pray to God that he’s rested. It’s a fair bet he will be and that Wilfried Bony — returning from injury — will be asked to complete a front two.
We’d take that and Pellegrini may see it as a reasonable compromise — two lighter-weight goal threats part compensating for one elite one.
The City manager has all but promised Raheem Sterling another go at pissing on our chips. That spiteful intent may be alleviated by the resting of David Silva and the re-instating of Jesus Navas.
We’d take City sending out a front four of Navas, Sterling, Bony and Iheanacho. They’re all good enough to work us, but not as daunting a prospect as City’s previous selection.
Jürgen Klopp’s deliberations will not be too dissimilar to his counterpart’s.
Injuries to Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho and the need to give the essential Daniel Sturridge some respite may dictate choices with a trip to Crystal Palace to negotiate on Sunday before next Thursday’s big one at home to Manchester United.
Klopp may also be tempted by a front two. Christian Benteke will be egging him on. His non-appearance at Wembley looked something of a death knell to his Liverpool career, and was reported as such by those that can be trusted, but he just may get a chance to show what he can do in a partnership with fellow Belgian Divock Origi — a near certain starter given his impact in recent cameos.
Elsewhere, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana did not have to endure 120 minutes at Wembley and should also be fairly likely to be chosen in the initial 11.
Klopp will want Philippe Coutinho to play but asking him to risk his hamstring yet again could — as in Sturridge’s case — be viewed as a risk too far.
If the manager sticks to type and dodges the opportunity to select a conventional front two, then he will be obliged to select from a heavy-legged set of midfielders.
Two of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and James Milner are all but obliged to start this one, and only the availability of the fit again Joe Allen offers the prospect of any relief.
Interestingly, the choice and use of substitutions could be particularly decisive to this contest. The sides on the pitch come 90 minutes may more closely resemble the Wembley combatants than the starting 11s.
What price one or two of Sturridge, Coutinho, Silva or Aguero proving last quarter match-winners?
So Walking Wounded Town take on Knackered Athletic in a contest to the death. Winner takes all. Fantastic stuff. The match is back and I’m out of bed.
Bring it the fuck on.
The team to redeem: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Allen; Lallana, Firmino, Origi.