Considering they are a team that has periodically relied on a strong defence as a foundation for success in both league and European games, to say that Liverpool’s defence this season has been leaky would be an understatement. Conceding over double the amount of goals compared to this time last year, it is no surprise that the Reds have fallen so far back off the pace to Chelsea in the Premier League. 20 goals in 14 league games is not league winning material and is something that right-back Glen Johnson is fully aware of and thinks that the side are improving on:
We have had two clean sheets on the spin now and hopefully we have got a platform to build on when we go to Blackburn. We know that we haven’t been picking up the results that people associated with this club expect, but there was no better place to start picking up points than at Goodison Park last weekend. Now we want to get on a good run. The next game is all that we can worry about but we want to be pushing up the table and hopefully we have made a start.
It is going to be fundamental to this effort to push up the table that the defence is solid. Although we had a few scares against Everton, a clean sheet will do a lot of good and give some much needed confidence to the back four. Liverpool have now not lost for five matches, and had a second clean sheet in a row against Everton last weekend; this must be a platform from which Benitez’s side kick start their season. The Man U victory back in October appeared to be the result which should have led to a good run of form for the Reds, but it was a false dawn. The rot quickly set in again and Benitez cannot afford for the same to happen again.
Another run of poor results over Christmas would no doubt drop the club back in the running for fourth place and it would need a tremendous second half of the season to save the season from being a massive letdown. The Blackburn game will be no easy task to win, they have only lost once at home all season and the style of football that Sam Allardyce’ s side play, plays right into the weaknesses of Liverpool’s defence. Long balls, corners, free kicks and throw ins are all central to Blackburn’s play and Liverpool will have a very hard time in dealing with it all. The box will be peppered with balls and we must just hope that the Reds backline is both strong enough and confidence enough to deal with the threat.
The game will certainly show what sort of mindset the Liverpool players are in at the moment. They should be buoyant after the Merseyside derby win and their play should not be restricted against a Blackburn side which lies 13th in the table. What will surely boost the confidence and tip the scales is the possible return of Fernando Torres. Torres and Gerrard have not played together for ten games, a big factor in the Merseysiders downward spiral in recent weeks, and a return to the side of the Liverpool talisman will give us the cutting edge we need to unlock Blackburn’s defence. After three weeks of rehab work, Benitez is increasingly optimistic about Torres’s chances of playing and let’s hope if he plays that, along with a solid defensive performance, he can deliver the goods at the weekend.