After an excellent performance failed to bring the three points Liverpool desired at the weekend, they now face a trip to the south coast to face bogey-team Portsmouth and their new boss, Alain Perrin.
Liverpool were knocked out of the cup by Portsmouth last season, and also lost the league game at the same ground.
Pompey are now looking to ensure their Premiership survival, and Perrin thinks five points will do it. He said, "My target is to get to 40 points as quickly as possible. We need five more points and then I think we will be definitely safe. We have a big week ahead with the home game with Liverpool and the derby against Southampton and we still have work to do."
Liverpool themselves however are looking for the full fifteen points from their remaining five games. Currently sixth in the Premiership, three points off fourth place having played one game less than fourth-placed Everton, Liverpool don’t want to slip up again.
Portsmouth need the points, and have players that need to impress their new boss. They won’t be rolling over. Liverpool are now in must-win games for the rest of the season. Including two games against Chelsea in the Champions League.
Sami Hyypia scored another spectacular goal on Saturday to follow up his opener against Juve at Anfield. He was the subject of speculation that he was on his way to Roma over the weekend (denied by Liverpool) and desperately wants the club to be in the Champions League again next season. If they weren’t, "it would be a great disappointment," he said.
He continued, "Liverpool belong in the Champions League. We have shown in the Champions League this season that we belong there and so if we are not in it next season it will be a massive disappointment. If we don’t get fourth we will have to win the Champions League. When we got through to the semi-finals in Juventus I still thought it would be easier to finish in fourth than actually win the European Cup. Now, possibly, it’s the other way round. Winning the Champions League is not impossible but it is certainly not going to be easy."
If Liverpool fans had been told at the season’s start that they’d be challenging for fourth place right now they’d have been disappointed, but in hindsight fourth place would be OK in Rafa’s first season. If the fans had been told that the two teams they were fighting with for fourth place were going to be Everton and Bolton there’d probably have been laughter. Everton or Bolton in the Champions League? Unfortunately it’s a scenario that can not only happen, but is out of Liverpool’s hands to do so. Hyppia went on: "Bolton are back in the race now. They only have five more league games left to play and they cannot drop any points either. It has been a strange season. The top three have gone a long way in front unchallenged, everyone else is fighting for fourth and now there are a few teams coming through from the back. But we can only look at our own games and analyse what is going wrong. If we drop a few more points then of course it will be impossible for us to get that fourth spot. But that is football sometimes."
Liverpool’s success in Europe so far this season has not been matched in the domestic arena. Liverpool have failed to win on nine occasions this season in the games immediately after a Champions League match, and Hyypia says that the European games take a lot out of the players: "I don’t know exactly what it is, but Champions League games do take a lot out of you physically and mentally. In some of the games we have played after Europe this season it is fair to say the mentality has not been right."
Everyone’s desperate to get these precious points – and Liverpool have to start with the collection of all three at a ground that’s not been a happy hunting ground for them.