Liverpool are moving towards the opening of the 2013 winter transfer window with equal measures of optimism and desperation it seems. Five wins in seven in December was pretty good going, but the manner of defeats to Aston Villa and Stoke City made things seem worse than they perhaps are.
On the other hand, maybe they were just a stark indication of exactly how far Liverpool are from being consistently good enough to win Premier League matches.
A 3-0 win at QPR should stiffen the resolve of some as the Reds look to build on a first half a season which has yielded seven league victories, but it is increasingly apparent that reinforcements are needed in the final third.
The transfer rumour mill is cranking into overdrive as the big moment approaches—with some claiming deals are already wrapped up and merely awaiting the official opening and confirmation.
The Chelsea striker is seemingly a Liverpool player in all but name by now.
Having already completed a medical with the club and a fee and personal terms said to have been agreed, Sturridge will join Liverpool as soon as the window officially opens—meaning he could make his Reds debut as soon as the FA Cup match on January 6, though a debut a week later against Manchester United might be more likely.
Sturridge may well be handed the No. 9 shirt for the Reds, vacated by Andy Carrroll's loan spell, and whether from a central striking role or a wide forward area, he will be expected to shoulder plenty of the goals that the Reds require.
The on-again, off-again move for the former Liverpool winger might have hit a wall recently, but Reds fans can be confident that this is one move which could go through eventually.
There is obviously plenty of interest on Liverpool's side to complete a deal, and Ince would bring further pace and goal threat to the front line, so although there is seemingly more work to do to make the transfer happen, Ince could very feasibly be a Red once more by the end of January.
The only sure-fire outgoing transfer from Anfield seems to be that of Joe Cole.
Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique have had an upturn in form recently, which may stave off their exit until the summer, but Cole will find himself without a squad place when Sturridge and Ince arrive.
He is expected to join Queens Park Rangers and former manager Harry Redknapp as they battle to stay in the Premier League; getting Cole's hefty wages off the bill would be a great late Christmas present for the club.
Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for Birmingham City and England youngster Jack Butland.
It remains to be seen if Pepe Reina's form improves sufficiently for this to be a long-term replacement move or one which the Reds turn to immediately, but with the Blues in financial difficulties, there is every chance this transfer could go ahead in January.
Butland has plenty of promise, though is yet to experience top-level football, making it likely that perhaps this is a move with one eye on the future. In that case, it could well also be a transfer which has to wait for the summer.
A recent development in the ongoing transfer saga that is Liverpool FC is that of the link with Lazio defender Modibo Diakite.
The powerful Diakite's contract is up in the summer, making it another move which might yet wait a few months, though the Reds would be free to talk to him about a move in January.
Diakite has not played for Lazio in the league this season and will not be renewing his contract, reports Sky Sports (h/t 101greatgoals).
The Incredibly Unlikely
As the rumour mill steps up a notch from "varied" to "ludicrous", it took one media outlet precisely 20 hours to pooh-pooh their own story, having originally claimed that Liverpool were one of the early runners to make a bid for Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder.
The Dutchman remains a real talent regardless of his lack of contribution to Inter's season, which has been mostly brought about because of his contract situation.
Sneijder will make a great signing for somebody—but don't expect it to be for Liverpool in January.
An often-mentioned name in the Liverpool gossip columns, David Villa has reportedly been targeted by the Reds, as he has often been in and out the Barcelona team since returning from a long-term injury.
The most recent stories have Brendan Rodgers wanting to bring the former Valencia forward to Anfield on loan—and with Barça unsurprisingly rejecting the offer.
Liverpool need goals and quality in the final third, and Villa certainly offers plenty of both, but this isn't likely to be a move which has foundation in this particular transfer window.
I have not decided on my future. I will only stay at Real Madrid if I can offer the same level on the pitch as I can now and we will see what happens in the next few months. There is always a chance I could go back to the Premier League as I always enjoyed good times there.
Of course there is nothing specific about Liverpool there, but the logical rumour-based jump is to suggest he will be coming back to Anfield.
However, Alonso would likely prefer to remain at the Bernabeu, and given he is still displaying terrific form, the odds must be on him renewing his present deal eventually. In any case, he is unlikely to play for Liverpool during 2013.