So there's this match up at Anfield. You know the place. You can get there, but you just can't walk there by yourself. Sure, we all have delusions of grandeur that we might actually still have a chance to pip Arsenal and Everton for fourth place (lol) but in order to do that we have to go up to Liverpool and actually, y'know, win. Nobody really wants to talk about this match. In fact, I'd almost rather be staked to a hillside and slowly devoured by rabid weasels (or Luis Suarez). But someone has to get the pulse of the team wearing red ahead of this match, so I reached out to our compatriots down the hall at the virtual SB Nation headquarters.
The fine folk at the Liverpool Offside blog graciously accepted my (last minute) offer for a quick interview and blogger Elizabeth L not only answered my questions but managed to do it without gnawing my arm off at the elbow. So I call that a bonus!
Uncle Menno: Hey, that Luis Suarez guy has been pretty good this season, I guess. All this stuff like "scoring goals" and "making the team better" really does seem to make a team click, though it's likely going to mean additional interest from the big clubs with more money than God like Real Madrid, Man City, or PSG. How confident are you that you'll be able to keep ahold of Suarez this summer, and can you foresee a scenario where he is sold?
Elizabeth L: 100% confident that he'll stay, and that's coming from the most skeptical person about him on our staff. For all the drama and controversy surrounding him, Suarez seems to be a pretty straightforward guy once he decides what he wants. What he wants might change on a whim (see also: last summer), but it's not terribly surprising that he's looked very much at home, on and off the pitch, this season now that Liverpool are performing better than anyone expected and have a pretty decent lock on a Champions League place. If he gets sold in the summer, it will be because the owners couldn't turn down a stupid amount of money, but I honestly don't see it happening. It's the following summer I'd be worried about
UM: Steven Gerrard has never struck me as the kind of player that would normally excel as a holding midfielder, but this season he has excelled as Liverpool's central midfield pivot. What prompted the change, and what is it about Gerrard that has allowed him to make the positional switch not only effortlessly, but so effectively?
EL: Steven Gerrard has never struck us as the kind of player that would normally excel as a holding midfielder, either, but your assessment of his transition is kindly generous. There were a string of rocky games when Rodgers first played him in the position and there are still occasions where our style of play often means our centre backs are left vulnerable with only Gerrard to seemingly protect them, but he's definitely come a long way and has turned in a couple of MOTM performances to boot.
Gerrard had a similar performance trajectory last season where there were periods during which fans called for him to be benched, followed by him ending the season on a high note. It's possible this is just how the twilight-of-his-career Gerrard narrative unfolds and that he simply got moved back to DM at the wrong point in the season, or it could be his work with Brendan Rodgers, who he seems really taken with as a manager. Suffice it to say, we're pretty glad that he's on an upswing at the moment.
UM: Brendan Rodgers' recent comments to the media specifically called out Tim Sherwood as being "passionate." While "passionate" often translates to "bats#%! crazy" in footballing media terms (and I'd agree with that assessment), it's not exactly a ringing endorsement of Sherwood's tactical nous. Is there a sense that Liverpool perhaps isn't taking Spurs as seriously as they maybe should? (Be honest, it's okay)
EL: Nope, honest! Rodgers' media game has improved substantially this year; I think he's developed a bit of the patented Kenny Dalglish snark, sans the Dalglish contempt for the press. We're in the thick of "every match is a cup final" talk, and I don't think anyone is under any delusion that any of our matches are a guaranteed three points; Spurs aren't any different. Narrative might be lovely for those of us who write about the game, but previous results have zero impact on what will happen on Sunday.
UM: Do you really think Liverpool can contend for the title this season? What does Liverpool need to do to contend next season?
EL: I don't think it's a matter of can Liverpool contend, since we are contending. We're in second place, one point back of first. There's a lot that can happen in the ensuing matches, especially given that we still face Chelsea and Man City, and that City will have a game in hand until the last game of the season. But whether or not anyone else likes it, we're definitely contending right now. It was never the club's stated goal, and it's been a happy surprise for most fans, but it's happening nonetheless.
I think our biggest concern for next season is depth, not unlike literally every team who wants to win a title while simultaneously competing in Europe. We spent a lot of this year absolutely devastated by injuries in various key positions, and while a lot of people have stepped up to compensate, that suddenly becomes a lot harder to do next year. Despite our success this year, my hope for next year is that we can make a respectable showing in Europe and still make top four in the league, but I'm not sure this is necessarily reflective of our rather excited wider fan base.
UM: I don't remember what happened the last time Spurs played Liverpool because I had that memory surgically expunged from my brain. But can you foresee a scenario, based on recent performances of both sides, that Spurs might actually come into Anfield and... y'know, maybe... uh, nick a result?
EL: You know we run an entire column called "Everything's The Worst", right? We are our own worst enemies, and our poor results come as a result of self-induced moments of mind-numbingly stupid play. We've had an incredible year, but there's still a deep seated fear that it could all easily fall apart. If Liverpool aren't up for the match for any particular reason, there's room for Spurs to take advantage of that.
UM: A lot of ink has been spilled over Tottenham's summer signings and their perceived "failure." Which Spurs players, newcomers or otherwise, are you most worried about facing this weekend, and what's the best way to nullify their threat?
EL: A quick staff poll revealed Christian Eriksen as the main threat, simply due to the form he's currently in and the fact that he'll regularly come face to face with one Steven Gerrard and that makes us nervous, so... the best way to nullify that threat is to not start Gerrard? Lucas Leiva recently returned from injury and could use some playing time in the DM position, but the odds of Rodgers benching his captain are slim.
UM: Liverpool is a club that is recently risen (like an Amish barn) from a few years of disappointment and toil to Champions League football. During those dark years, how did you adjust to mid-table mediocrity, and do you have any tips that you can share to help fans of a club currently heading in that direction cope with the inevitable crushing disappointment? Asking for a friend.
EL: The Anfield faithful will sing you your answer on Sunday: "at the end of the storm there's a golden sky" and "walk on with hope in your heart." It sounds cloying and sentimental in print, but you'll get through this! Also: booze. We're happy to offer advice on a CFC-inspired cocktail if necessary.
UM: (Excellent! I have this idea for a drink called "The Sherwood" that contains Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur, dark English bitter, and a piece of tripe as garnish. It's not very good and nobody really wants one, but it takes a lot of "character" to finish it.) Finally, please, just not in the face, okay? Not in the face? Let's have your score predictions.
EL: I'm going to be conservative and say 2-0 for Liverpool, including a Jordan Henderson goal.
Say what you want about Liverpool (and we have!) but the folks down the hall at SB Nation's The Liverpool Offside are fantastic, fantastic people with a great community. Elizabeth L is a staff writer at TLO and graciously took time out of her busy Friday to answer questions for an idiot Spurs blogger who forgot about his weekly feature until the last minute. Thanks also to bloggish leader Noel C for helping set it all up. (Seriously, not in the face, please.) Elizabeth can be found on twitter at @killsmedead. Give her a follow, she's great!