After the two-week international break, Liverpool are back in action in the Premier League, with the visit of Reading Football Club to Anfield this Saturday in their first season back in the top flight.
Ahead of a challenging league schedule that will see Liverpool travel to Everton and Chelsea sandwiched by a visit from Newcastle, the Reading fixture is the easiest on paper for Liverpool in the coming few weeks.
Not that being easy on paper will translate into points, of course: It’s been a stop-start season for the Reds, and the age-old performance vs. result debate has raged on.
Here are five reasons Saturday’s Anfield clash is a must-win game in the context of Liverpool’s season—and, as usual, feel free to have your say in the comments below.
This week it’s about Luis Suarez’s theatrics, that week the defensive mishaps, the other the thin Reds squad.
Not that they matter in an entirely Liverpool point of view, but the critics always have their sharpest knives out of the drawer whenever Liverpool play badly—and even when they play well and don’t get the result they deserve.
The way things are going, even if Liverpool get the three points on Saturday, they will still be judged on the number of goals scored against newly promoted Reading, and the critics won't entirely be silenced.
But it would be nice to get the three points.
2012 has not been kind to Anfield.
Liverpool have only won two Premier League games at home this calendar year—coming against Everton and Chelsea—but have drawn four and lost six.
Kenny Dalglish made it clear that he wanted to restore the word “Fortress” back in front of Anfield, and Brendan Rodgers entered Anfield banging on the same drum, but so far it hasn’t worked.
With five league fixtures at home left this year after Saturday’s game (Newcastle, Wigan, Southampton, Aston Villa and Fulham), perhaps it would be a good time to start racking up the wins in front of the Kop.
Despite the home discomforts, the home crowd has largely been understanding and accepting of Liverpool’s troubles, especially since Rodgers’ arrival.
They seem to be able to appreciate the footballing philosophy that Rodgers is trying to instill at Liverpool, and that it will take time for these values to be engrained into Liverpool’s DNA.
And of course, for the profligacy and theatrics that Suarez can conjure, the crowd are still wonderfully behind their No. 7, as well as the younger stars making the breakthrough in the first team this season.
It’s getting to be the right time to repay them for their never-ending faith and support.
It’ll do the players the world of good as well.
With Fabio Borini now out injured for the short term at least, Suarez finds himself as the only senior striker on Liverpool’s books (unthinkable as that may be) and with a large chunk of the goal-scoring responsibility placed squarely on his shoulders.
For the most part, the midfield has been doing well, and indeed has seen the rise of Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling and Suso, while Joe Allen has acquitted himself extremely well into his new side.
The back five need a major confidence booster—one that was supported by a clean sheet against Stoke City last time out but canceled by the attack once again misfiring.
They’ve talked at length about the impressive playing style that Rodgers is getting them to adopt, and how a long-awaited home win will go lengths in proving their beliefs right.
But perhaps a Liverpool home win this Saturday will be most important for their manager.
Brendan Rodgers made a considerable step up to a club of sheer footballing size, history and fanbase, and has made all the right noises and gotten the fans on board with his beliefs.
Over the summer, he was frustrated in his attempts to strengthen his squad, but his strong confidence in the Liverpool Academy meant that he only had to look down the road to see alternative options for his first team.
The work that Rafael Benitez did in revamping Liverpool’s youth program has finally borne fruit, and Rodgers has shown his readiness in reaping the rewards.
His playing philosophy has seen relative dominance of the ball in attack but has also done away with the defensive solidity that Dalglish and Steve Clarke installed just last season.
We speak of giving Brendan Rodgers time as a manager, but in the ever-competitive Premier League, results always reign king, and Liverpool must start bringing on board the points that their performances and their fans' faith deserve.
There are no two ways about it: a non-win against Reading will not be good enough.
Also check out: Comparing Rodgers’ Team to Last Season’s Squad