Could this be Rafa’s last home game as Liverpool manager? It certainly feels much less likely than it did on Friday, but Rafa is not happy with the way he’s been left without the support of the board – and not just financial support – for yet another season. And this has been Liverpool’s worse season since he arrived.
New chairman Martin Broughton still hadn’t met the manager when the manager was last interviewed, and through fear of cheering at the wrong time the BA boss won’t be meeting him at today’s game either.
The manager is unhappy. The senior management seem to flit between pretending everything’s fine with the manager, telling members of the press they think the manager’s playing games to see what more he can get out of the club, or that he’s going anyway – of his own accord. Meanwhile we hear about senior management discussing transfers without his knowledge, and letting the press know all about it, in what Rafa seems to believe is an attempt to undermine him. And it wouldn’t be the first.
The club seem to think Rafa is in the middle of doing what Xabi Alonso did last year, when Xabi had his new club lined up and agreed well before the end of the season. But it does seem more likely that Rafa’s doing what Gerrard did in 2005 – looking for reassurance that he really is wanted, looking for a sign that the club hopes he rejects advances from elsewhere.
Have we learned nothing about communication? That applies to a number of people at the club, who need to start opening their mouths and talking to each other, instead of trying to guess and fearing the worst, like a lovesick teenager wondering if they’re being two-timed.
Meanwhile there’s a game to play today and it’s one that sees the manager pick a weak side. Not a weakened side, just a side that’s about us good as he can pick.
With Carragher, Agger and Kyrgiakos all starting it either means a three-man defence or that one of them is playing at full-back. And it seems like it will be Agger, playing at left back, with Mascherano again dropping back into defence to play right-back. Glen Johnson, switched to left-back in midweek, isn’t in the 18 today.
Whether Carragher will lose his rag at his right-back this year as he did in the last home game of last season remains to be seen, but if there’s one thing Liverpool do want to play for this afternoon it’s a clean sheet to keep Pepe Reina on course for another golden gloves award. It was the risk of losing that last season that caused Jamie Carragher to lose it with Alvaro Arbeloa, in what turned out to be his last game for the club.
£17m signing Alberto Aquilani makes it two starts in a row this afternoon, but Ryan Babel is dropped to the bench to make way for Maxi Rodriquez.
Liverpool have now qualified for the Europa League for next season, but their chances of fourth place are so slim it really isn’t worth considering it as a possibility. City and Spurs would have to draw in their fixture on Wednesday, before going on to lose their games at Burnley and West Ham. So Europa League it is for Liverpool next season, and unless major steps are made to sort out the mess that remains at the club even that might be seen as a massive achievement before too long.
Liverpool: Reina, Mascherano, Agger, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Lucas, Gerrard, Aquilani, Maxi, Benayoun, Kuyt.
Subs: Cavalieri, Babel, Pacheco, Ngog, El Zhar, Degen, Ayala.