Liverpool’s 2015-16 season kick started in fine fashion with two back to back victories against Stoke City and newly promoted AFC Bournemouth. It was Philippe Coutinho’s late stunner at the Britannia Stadium and Christian Benteke’s controversial first goal at Anfield that earned them 3 points under Brendan Rodgers.
The fans were looking forward to a strong finish in the Premier League this season after the forgetful 2014-15 campaign. And it was certainly a positive start to the season for the Reds even though the victories were narrow.
But soon, Brendan Rodgers came under extreme pressure to secure his job after heavy defeats against West Ham United and arch rivals Manchester United. Since that back to back 1-0 wins in their opening games of this season, Liverpool had tasted victory just once in their next 6 games. They struggled to keep up the consistency which was expected by the supporters. As a result, manager Brendan Rodgers was sacked by the club owners for a below-par opening to 2015-16.
Jurgen Klopp was appointed as the next Liverpool manager. His Liverpool journey started with 3 consecutive draws before he tasted victory in a crucial league cup encounter against AFC Bournemouth. Klopp’s first breakthrough came when Liverpool destroyed Chelsea at the Bridge with brilliant performances from Coutinho and Benteke. Klopp’s Liverpool marked a statement in the league when the Reds thrashed City in their own backyard. Liverpool booked a place in the League Cup semi-finals with a 6-1 demolition of Southampton which also marked the return of star striker Daniel Sturridge. Klopp enjoyed a period of 4 consecutive wins before losing to struggling Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Liverpool players failed to perform on a consistent basis as they failed to impress in their next games which included a humiliating 3-0 loss to Watford. West Ham United did a double over Liverpool this season as they looked to return to winning ways after defeating the league leaders Leicester City and Sunderland. Consistency was a key for this Liverpool team, but the players failed to make a mark. Liverpool could not win games from situations where they looked favourites.
Although they progressed to the League Cup final, their run in the Premier League was not smooth. Liverpool, chasing a Champions League spot, kept on dropping points as their rivals kept pushing away from them. The Reds were also handed a painful FA Cup exit by Ogbonna’s header late into the extra time. A visit to Wembley after 4 years ended up in disillusionment after a narrow defeat to Manchester City on penalties after the two sides played a 1-1 draw in regulation time. The heartbreaking loss for the club meant that they were now out of contention to win a trophy this year unless they perform really well to clinch the Europa League.
Liverpool on the other side progressed to the Europa League round of 16 as they beat Augsburg. They now face arch rivals Manchester United whom they have never met in a European competition. It is a big task for Klopp to progress to the Quarter-finals, as the fans will be expecting nothing less than a win. Incidentally, Liverpool failed to win their last 4 matches against their North West rivals.
Now with the teams sitting at the top of the table like Spurs, City and Arsenal dropping points, it is a perfect situation for the club to get back to winning ways as they have done in their last 3 games and keep up the challenge for a Champions League spot. Liverpool, with a game in hand, are only 8 points behind Arsenal who are sitting at the 3rd spot. Manchester City, also with a game in hand, are just 2 points off Arsenal.
As the league is progressing, the title can be anyone’s. But if Liverpool start to get 3 points on a regular basis, they will surely be in the contention to rob off a European spot from any of the team above them. On the other hand they will have European nights on their mind which is the only competition from where Liverpool can win a trophy this season. They will also keep in mind that a Europa League win will guarantee them a Champions League spot.
Jurgen Klopp will be hoping for his players to step up as we go to the business end of the season. Nothing less than a trophy or a top 4 finish in the league will be satisfying for the fans. The players need to up their game and play to their potential to extract the best out of this season. A strong finish to the season is not impossible but will need a huge task from the players to achieve it.
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