With no European football to act as a distraction during the 2011/2012 season, Liverpool, a team rejuvenated following the return of Kenny Dalglish as manager in January, are being widely tipped to be a major force once again in the Premier League this season.
Some people, including Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, have hinted that the Reds under Dalglish could well challenge for the title or at very least get themselves back in the top four picture and a Champions League place after missing out for the past two years. The bookmakers football odds have made Liverpool 10/1 to win the title and evens to finish in the top four.
In the very short time that Dalglish has been back in charge at Anfield, the side has gone from strength to strength. Before the end of the season, most players were full of confidence and playing at the top of their games and it could not be too much better for Dalglish currently and the Scotsman, who left Anfield first time around in 1991 after winning three league titles will be hoping things will continue at the rate in which they’ve started, especially with the addition of some key summer signings to the squad which include Stewart Downing from Aston Villa, Jordan Henderson from Sunderland and Charlie Adam from Blackpool.
However, any Liverpool success could well hinge on a fully fit Steven Gerrard who remains troubled by a long standing groin injury and is expected to miss the first few matches of the season. That said, Liverpool’s revival under Dalglish last season which took then from 12th place in the league into 6th was achieved without Gerrard and relied heavily on the performances of the ultra gifted Luis Suarez, who showed his quality in Copa America over the Summer where his four goals helped Uruguay win the tournament. He was ably assisted in the Liverpool side by Raul Meireles and the much improved Maxi Rodriguez, who both made big contributions to the resurgent Reds in the final months of last season. Add to the equation a fit again Gerrard, a fully fit Andy Carroll together with the work rate of Dirk Kuyt and it seems very difficult to believe that Liverpool will not be there or thereabouts by the season’s end particularly with the league the sole focus on Merseyside.
Liverpool have no European commitments this season, a factor that should leave the players a lot fresher than their main rivals who will all have heavy Champions League campaigns ahead of them starting in September. Indeed those teams, Manchester United, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal will all have the Europe as a prime target this season, potentially playing 12 more games than Liverpool should any of England’s four representatives make the semi finals of the competition.
In contrast, Liverpool will focus totally on the league and come January, should they be in with a chance of winning the title then it would be no surprise to see their owners, New England Sports Ventures, back them once more as they have done so already in the two transfer windows they’ve been in charge at Anfield and whilst it shouldn’t have a baring on results, who can ignore the romance of Dalglish winning a title some 21 years after leaving Anfield?
Liverpool fans should rightly be expecting a big season from their team in 2011-12 and whilst the pre-season talk has surrounding the ‘usual suspects’, Liverpool should not be ruled out of gate crashing the title party come next May and given their price in the Premier League title odds, it won’t be just Liverpool fans back the Reds to end a 22 year wait for the title.