Fight Club (Or the fight for fourth)

Saturday, 6 February 2010 ·


As the media circus over the Terry affair continues even after Capello's decision to demote the defender and the nation's army of bloggers are inundated with slavering, barely comprehendible comments from football fans, the issue of the fight for a top-four place renews with some interest today.  Liverpool have the chance to sneak into the top four, if only for a few hours, before Tottenham face Aston Villa at White Hart Lane if they can overcome an in-form Everton who have won their last three league games and produced a near-match winning performance at the Emirates before succumbing to a late Rosicky goal.  Victory is far from assured for Liverpool who are also on a good run, unbeaten in the last six league games, winning 4 and drawing two of those matches.

Liverpool face a crucial period of their stuttering season as they prepare for the 213th Merseyside derby, with Arsenal and Manchester City to follow.  Benitez has reaffirmed the importance of this period for their hopes of finishing in the top four, "It is important to keep winning games to maintain the momentum and it would be fantastic to win all three but you have to start with the first one.  We want to make sure we get back into the top four and this is the first opportunity to try and do that."  Looking at the table, it is weasy to see how close the fight for fourth place is, but Harry Redknapp reportedly has said that even third spot is up for grabs, "Someone could get third spot. Manchester City could. We could. Liverpool could. Anyone is capable with a run. Arsenal are not 100% sure to be there if they get beaten by Chelsea and other teams pick up good results."  Liverpool currently lie eight points behind Arsenal in 5th place, a win today against the Toffees and a Chelsea win would see them close the gap to five points with the game at The Emirates to come next week.  



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But first is the small matter of a derby victory. Derbies are rarely ever pretty on the eye as the home crowd bays for blood and bragging rights until the next meeting but Liverpool have the upper hand as they are unbeaten at Anfield since 1999 and can boast a record of only 2 defeats in the last 20 games. The Merseyside derby has always been a hotly contested affair but during the eighties it was also touted as "The Friendly Derby" with both sets of supporters enjoying the game and taking the inevitable banter after games in the spirit it deserved. But the nineties saw a change in attitude. What constituted that, I could not say precisely but the animosity still lingers. Some say it is because of the Heysel disaster and Everton's subsequent downfall from the pinnacle of Division 1 (pre-Premiership) but Paul Tomkins, a best-selling Liverpool author, believes "Liverpool’s superior record on the pitch has also played its part in straining the relations between supporters, with Liverpool adopting the role of the smirking older brother, and Everton the put-upon younger sibling."  Whatever the reason, the intensity is there, let's just hope that passion is played out on the pitch in a positive manner so that we can all enjoy a cracking game of football for a change.

Graham Matheson

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Written and edited by Graham Matheson, a Liverpool and Deportivo La Coruna fan.
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