Let the games commence...
You'll have probably noticed Rafa Benitez has thrown it out there that Spurs will shag it up thanks to our difficult fixture list. Spurs will lose points is the headline on the official Liverpool site (from yesterday). And Rafa tells the reds:
“It depends on us and if we can keep winning our games. Tottenham have difficult games so I think we’ll be closer, and we’ll see. Every week will be different.
“After the Europa League we have Birmingham and that will be very tough. But if we can win our games, I think they (Spurs) will lose some points and I think we can be there.
“I hope it can still be a successful season. You can always have bad seasons, but the main thing is the reaction of the players. We will try and fight until the end, and then we’ll see.
“Hopefully we can get in the top four and progress in the Europa League.”
Don't know about you, but I find this sort of thing inspiring, and so should the players. Yes, Liverpool are fairly boring and have had an unspectacular season but they are seasoned CL qualifiers so to be engaged by them in this manner should be used positively by our lot. Guaranteed at one point, 4th for Liverpool, wasn't it Rafa? 31 games in and we are the ones who have remained anchored to fourth, and when we've slipped down a place or two we've dug deep and climbed back up. With thanks to others around us (guess who?) who have remained inconsistent through-out. Nothing wrong with our form. If you take a look at the season thus far there is more likelihood of Liverpool dropping points than there is us.
I don't think for a second Spurs have had the type of mentality at any point in the season where we've gone into a game expecting to win without effort. And we continue to take nothing for granted - players and fans alike. We've fought hard every time and when the odds are stacked in our favour, we've been professional about it. The only weakness has come in the shape of complacency which cost us at Everton and Birmingham. The defeats at home against Stoke and Wolves boil down to frustration and lack of composure breaking down said teams who parked the bus. It's been a learning curve, a steady progression.
Sure I'm bias and believe it would be a travesty if after all our hard grafting, Liverpool squirm their way into the Champions League. And Rafa is obviously saying what he's saying so it plays in the minds of our players. We're in the winning position, its ours to lose.
But it's not Rafa we should be concerned about. It's the enemy within. Which he's obviously hoping to summon with his choice of words. The inferiority complex that sometimes sees us choke against the really big teams. A self-fulfilling prophecy that seems to force the issue against us, placing us firmly back in our box. In the past the players almost subconsciously surrendered as though the expectancy to lose the game weighed heavily on their shoulders. Happened earlier in the season against Chelsea, Utd and Arsenal.
Times have changed. But we still need to prove it.
So, thank you Rafa for the pep talk and letting us know you care. Far more understated and subtle as far as mind games go, but we all know his track record when he opens his gob.