Over the last few years Liverpool have started every season off with fans hoping for the title. By this point in most of those seasons however the target has been a Champions’ League place. Thanks to the success of English clubs over recent years, there are four place to play for – although two of those require preliminary rounds to be played first.
Liverpool’s fans want the title. In the game of football as it stands now in England, titles cost money, the sort of money Liverpool no longer have.
Talks are continuing into funding at Anfield; changes to the shirt sponsors look likely, new partnerships with mobile phone companies have come into place this season, even the name of Liverpool’s planned new stadium could include a sponsor’s name. All of this makes the money from Champion’s League qualification all the more important. Important that is, for success.
If Champions League money helps Liverpool in their goal for ultimate success in the Premiership, for near neighbours Bolton it would bring something just as important to them – long term membership of England’s top flight.
Sam Allardyce has brought off some excellent signing with a mimimal budget, bringing the best out of players unwanted by their own clubs and loaned out, or on free transfers. For Allardyce the chance of getting into fourth place and the Champions League is a possible dream: "If we finish in the Champions League spot we are going to make this football club secure as a Premiership outfit for the next decade and that would be hugely important. We couldn’t cope with the Champions League but we could cope with the money it brings – because we need it more than anyone else. We wouldn’t be expected to do anything in the Champions League, so we could take the finance out of that and redevelop a lot quicker than we have over the last five years."
Bolton are treading water at the moment says Allardyce: "It would make sure the club sustains its position by breeding its own players beyond the first team. We are not doing that at the moment, not investing in any form and to do that could be the greatest thing Bolton has done in its history."
Liverpool’s injury crisis has meant the international break was welcomed at Anfield, with Benitez finding that some of his players have used the time to get back to fitness – Garcia, Morientes, Warnock and Traore were all doubtful at the start of the international break, but could now all appear in the squad for Saturday’s game. Allardyce wishes there’d not been a break: "We didn’t really want to have an international break at this particular stage of the season, we would have liked to have kept the flow going. We have pushed our way onwards and upwards through the division and got closer and closer to two teams that, had they shown their normal form at the back end of the season, we would not have got close to. We have done so by us having a great 2005 and them having a poor one. It is an unbelievable dream for us going into the last eight matches, our destiny is in our own hands. We can only give Europe up now, nobody can go past us if we do it right and the ultimate of pipping Everton and Liverpool is still on.
"First and foremost, we have put ourselves in a magnificent position and then we have to try and push on and go as far as we can and try to challenge in the last eight games against Liverpool and Everton.
"Someone will always come from behind us and have a really good run, and we have to guard against that and obviously have enough points in the bag so they can’t catch us up and overtake us.
"At this stage now it would be very disappointing if we let this sixth spot slip and this European dream we’ve all got."
A win tomorrow at Anfield would see Bolton leapfrog the Reds, and would probably bring to an end Liverpool’s hopes of that Champions League spot.