Another weekend for the Reds, and another group of injuries to deal with at the back. The defensive ranks are left tattered once again as four top-choice defenders are all out. Even though he has experienced so much criticism and belief that he just was not good enough to be at Liverpool, it sure would be nice to have Emiliano Insua back from Galatasaray as cover for left back.
There is always the option of recalling Paul Konchesky from loan to Nottingham Forest, but I don't see that happening, either.
With their loss to former manager Roy Hodgson and West Brom, the Reds suffered a major setback in their already outside chances of European competition next season. Two penalties awarded in the last 30 minutes were put away by Baggies captain Chris Brunt to seal the deal at the Hawthorns.
While the second half saw their demise from Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Pepe Reina's mistimed tackles and resulting penalties, it was the first half that saw the complete devastation of the majority of our back line. Although to be fair, Kyrgiakos got the ball on replay, he would not have been put in the position to give up a penalty at all had Daniel Agger not went down injured—again.
The Danish defender can be one of the best when he is on his game and on the pitch, but he has been so injury prone over the last several seasons that it is truly starting to hurt. Reoccurring back and knee injuries have plagued the Dane since his arrival, and over his six season at Anfield he has only managed over 20 league appearances twice (2006-2007, 2009-2010) and over 25 league appearances once (2006-2007) in that time.
That was four years ago, when he was playing behind Jaime Carragher and Legendary Sami Hyypia. He has only featured in 92 of Liverpool's 221 League games since he arrived from Brodby IF, which is only 41.6 percent. For someone of his value and skill, we need him on the pitch more and in recovery less.
Alongside Agger on the injury list this weekend was Glen Johnson. The Englishman has had a relatively injury-free career and looks to be able to make a full recovery in just over a month's time, but what a crucial month for him to miss. His ability to handle playing either side of the defense has made him invaluable for Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool all season. Without a healthy natural right or left back in the ranks, and all the possible fill-ins out on loan (Stephen Darby to Notts County, Daniel Ayala to Derby, Konchesky to Forest, Insua to Galatasaray, Degan to Stuttgart) it looks rough at the moment.
Fabio Aurelio has been a great steward of the club as well, but his injury woes are almost as bad in comparison to Agger, as he has only made over 20 appearances once for the club in his five years of service. In his best campaign run of 24 games (2008-2009), the Reds saw the best finish in the premier league era.
However, like Agger, Aurelio has only made showings in 82 of 183 Premier League Games since his arrival, only 44.8 percent of the games he could have been influential in. Granted, the first two seasons saw him behind John Arne Riise—he has not been able to fill the boots he was brought in to fill.
Lastly, on the current injured roster is young rising star Martin Kelly. Kelly was the first to go down when he pulled up lame against West Ham in Liverpool's previous away defeat. Kelly had provided a flair that the Reds had been lacking from the back all season, and he had lifted the performance of both himself and repositioned Glen Johnson under Kenny Dalglish. Kelly should be back in several games' time, but it may not be soon enough—the next two games are crucial and against two top-four teams.
With those four out, the defensive duties will be left up to a mix-match crew that will likely see Jaime Carragher at right back, Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos in the center and young Danny Wilson on the left. Wilson played well in place of Johnson on Saturday, but against higher quality opponents he will likely be more suspect.
All these defensive injuries compound on top of the fact that Captain Steven Gerrard is also still injured. The talisman has had an injury troubled season and has failed to fully get back to form, and this will see him make the fewest first-team appearances for the club since his debut season in 1998-1999. His presence is sorely being missed at the moment, and his dip in form has hurt all season.
With all that said, is it still possible for the Reds to win seven games straight and have a sniff at Europe? Dirk Kuyt thinks so. In a recorded interview with Liverpoolfc.tv, he made the following statements in regards to intent for the rest of the season:
"We have to move on from West Brom and there's another big game coming up on Monday. We have to make sure the three points stay at Anfield."
"Every game between now and the end of the season is a must-win for us and that's what we must try to do. We have to make sure we keep going and hopefully we can start a run by Monday."
Losing to West Brom was a blow for several reasons. It saw the loss of two more defenders, it saw the loss of three points, and—most importantly—it saw the Reds miss the chance to gain two points back on Tottenham, who stumbled to a draw. Spurs most likely wont keep giving Liverpool opportunities like that to catch and pass them, and the loss this weekend could possible have ruined any hope.
The next two games—in my opinion—are the fulcrum to which the rest of the season will be measured. Manchester City come to Anfield on the coming Monday. The Citizens are fresh off a 5-0 pounding of Sunderland, which saw five different players on the score sheet and propelled them back into the top three over Chelsea.
A fully healthy attack mustered from Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Adam Johnson and Eden Dzeko will be quite an opposing task for the Liverpool's makeshift back line to deal with, and the Reds will have to rely on attack as the best form of defense. The Reds definitely will need a healthy dose of, "Can't get enough Suarez," to do so as the Uruguayan and Andy Carroll must produce.
If the Reds can beat City, then they are not yet out of the woods—the next weekend, they will face Arsenal. Although the Gunners have been slipping, they still have a game in hand to Manchester United. If that game is converted into a win there are only four points separating them at the top. Once again the Reds will be looking down a strange twist of fate. If they win, they have a chance at Europe, maybe, and pretty much gift wrap the title to their most hated enemies, on the other hand if they loose they are doomed to sixth place and no European competition thus possibly hindering most of their transfer bargaining chips for the summer.
Victory over the two teams would see the Reds have a chance of gaining six points on the Spurs, who will face Stoke city and then Arsenal in their next two Premier League fixtures. A crushing 4-0 defeat to Real Madrid yesterday might have some affect on their psyche, and tricky Stoke City might be able to take advantage and pull off an upset at the Britannia on Saturday. With the Second Leg of their Champions League bought next week before Arsenal, it could be a bad two weeks for Harry Redknapp—if he can't get his team in the right direction.
Given that Liverpool and Tottenham still have to play each other again, and if the Reds can win out, there is a very real chance they can still take fifth from a faltering Spurs' side. However, a loss on Monday will pretty much wrap their season up.