Famed European nights to make Anfield return

01 March 2014 10:18

The Champions League, second to the World Cup, is the pinnacle of a footballer's career. It is a competition in which the titans of the European game are compiled together to form a league of champions, hence the name UEFA Champions League. Four representatives of the Barclays Premier League are authorised to compete, with the fourth having to progress past the play-off stages. And with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City having all but cemented their status in next season's edition of Europe's elite competition, it leaves only one more supposedly viable entry into the competition.

Liverpool currently occupy the fourth Champions League position, and being only four points adrift of table-topping Chelsea, are emerging as serious contenders for the Premier League title. Coupled with the fact that they are liberated from European involvements, a title triumph certainly is not out of the Reds' reach.

However, with Tottenham lurking six points behind Brendan Rodgers' side while Everton and Manchester United still pose a threat, it would be advised for the Reds to ensure their existence in next year's episode of club football's apex before turning their attention to a potential league celebration come the culmination of the footballing calender.

Tottenham, however, seem the likeliest to derail Liverpool's European aspirations. The Londoners have been rejuvenated by Tim Sherwood's appointment, which followed the dismissal of Andre Villas Boas after a series of disheartening results. The former Blackburn midfielder has vindicated chariman Daniel Levy's faith in him, securing seven victories from a possible eleven in the league with Manchester City the only conquerors of the 45 year-old's men.

To completely rule out the respective qualifications of Manchester United and Everton into the Champions League would be an imprudent show of hastiness with eleven matches remaining in the Premier League. With the prospect of Liverpool dropping a handful of points unlikely, it seems as if David Moyes's current and former sides will have to battle it out to secure Europa League football, an encouraging scenario to celebrate Roberto Martinez's maiden season in charge at Goodison Park.

Liverpool, being six points ahead of Spurs, are inevitably the favourites to land the craved fourth spot. However, a combination of their outstanding displays and title-like character has seen their charge to Europe over-shadowed by talk of a league crown.

The Reds have consistently demonstrated their title credentials throughout the campaign through their excellent attacking play and spirit. While their victories over Swansea and Fulham in recent weeks contained defensive errors, Brendan Rodgers's offensive potent force have been able to bail them out of jail. The Northern Irishman's relentless desire to keep hold of Luis Suarez in the summer as Real Madrid and Arsenal publicly courted the Uruguayan seems to be paying dividends, with the 27 year-old combining fluently strike partner Daniel Sturridge in firing the Anfield outfit into next season's Champions League.

Their superb link-up play has seen the pair likened to the great strike partnership of Yorke-Cole and even favourably compared to the duo. While the SAS (mnemonic for Suarez and Sturridge) may steal all the headlines, the excellent contributions of the Reds midfield must not be over-looked. Rodgers has inquestionably improved individual players this season, with Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson playing a pivotal role in a term in which the Merseysiders have over-acheived. Their impressive displays seem to have caught the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson, with the former Liverpool boss including the pair in his squad to face Denmark in a friendly match on Wednesday. And as to not exclude Phillipe Coutinho from the praises, he too has been in fine form.

The Reds defence have failed to match the potent elements in front of them. At times this season, Liverpool's propensity to put the ball in the back of the net has masked their appearing defensive frailties, with their 4-3 victory over Swansea City last Sunday a perfect prototype of the point. Rodgers, it seems, is yet to establish his preferred centre-back partnership, with Skrtel, Toure, Agger and Sakho all pushing to impress the former Swansea coach. Jon Flanagan has excelled at right-back this season courtesy of Jose Enrique's prolonged injury absence with Glen Johnson reverting to left-back.

Liverpool, however, have proved to be adept at overcoming the numerous obstacles they have faced. A mark of champions? For sure. But most Liverpool supporters would prefer to cement their status in next season's edition of the Champions League before dreaming of a bus parade around Stanley Park in May, toasting their first league triumph in 24 years.

Source: DSG