With a feast of Premier League football to look forward to, there is one fixture in particular that has really caught my eye – QPR v Liverpool. The reason for that is simple: Liverpool simply has to win it, and if they don’t, then they’ll be written out of the title race (if they haven’t already been).
No one expected Brendan Rodgers’ side to have the season they did last term, but they deserve all the credit in the world for the way that they pushed Chelsea and Manchester City all the way to the wire. However, even as the season drew to a close, sceptics like me were nodding sagely and saying, ‘they won’t repeat that this time around’.
As much as I’d like Liverpool to be in the title race, I’m afraid that I’m almost certain to be proved correct.
Liverpool has endured a mediocre start to the season, with their only performance of note coming against a Tottenham side who quite simply failed to turn up on the day. For context, that Tottenham side currently sit two points ahead of them.
Just seven games in, the Reds are nine points shy of league leaders Chelsea; and given the way that Jose Mourinho’s side has performed so far this season, it seems unlikely they’re going to drop too many points. In short, Liverpool may already be too far behind for a genuine title challenge to be on the cards.
What Rodgers’ charges definitely can’t afford to do is drop points against teams who they’d bet their house on beating. Queens Park Rangers are one of those sides. Stranded at the root of the table with only four points from their first seven games, QPR have not adapted at all well to Premier League life and on paper look like an easy fixture for Liverpool.
Unfortunately for Rodgers, football isn’t played on paper.
In reality, when you really need a win, going to a team that’s bottom of the table is not actually the most ideal of fixtures. All of the pressure will be on Liverpool to go out there and get a result. Their fans will be expecting it; the neutrals will be expecting it; heck, even QPR fans will be expecting it. In short, Liverpool are overwhelming favourites to win this fixture, and given that they desperately need the three points, they’ll have to play like favourites too.
The issue with having to play like favourites is that if Liverpool wants three points, they’re going to have to go to Loftus Road and attack QPR. QPR aren’t going to be steaming out of the blocks to attack Liverpool and, realistically, a point at home to Liverpool wouldn’t be a bad result for Redknapp’s side. I’m absolutely positive that this will be reflected in the way QPR line up, which means Liverpool are going to have commit a lot of men forward if they want to open them up.
The obvious issue with this is the vulnerability to the counterattack – something that Liverpool has already proved to be pretty vulnerable to already. The problem is they have no choice. Anything other than a win is unacceptable; but the trouble is, in attacking for the win, they risk the possibility of returning home with nothing.