Assessing Liverpool's Chances in Their Run Up to the Manchester United Game
Liverpool may be buoyed by their positive start to the season and can certainly stake a claim to being title contenders.
The next four fixtures for the Kop side will undoubtedly go some way into deciding what direction their season will head. A collection of triumphs will stand them in good stead to take the fight to their two Manchester rivals, deemed the favourites for the title.
This may seem like a run in you would expect a good return. However, in the corresponding fixtures last season Liverpool scored absolutely no points from the four games.
Surely then they are bound to at least gain a better return this season. No fixture will provide an easy win and Liverpool's promising opening batch of games could frustratingly be undone as the season progresses.
So how will the Anfield side in the four preceding matches to their home tie against Alex Ferguson's men?
Away to Stoke City
After international duty Liverpool head to the Britannia stadium intending to keep their unbeaten start intact.
When the two sides met at the Britannia last year Roy Hodgson's starting 11 suffered their fifth league defeat in only 13 games as Stoke netted twice in the second half. A late sending off for Lucas Leiva added to the sides' woes and a distant 11th placed spot in the table meant that Hodgson's days were well and truly numbered.
This was at a time where dire defender Paul Konchesky started games alongside the now departed Fernando Torres and Sotirios Kyrigiakos. A failure to ignite during the game meant Liverpool had little to offer and Stoke took full advantage.
Oppositely their next game against West Ham saw the side triumph 3-0. This was a rare highlight however as the season edged towards the new year.
This season Stoke are being touted as potential Europa League qualification contenders and their impressive aggregate win over FC Thun in this year's competition has given food for thought for the top sides in the Premiership.
A home draw against Chelsea was followed by a late equaliser against the ten men of Norwich.
Asides from their 4-1 victory over FC Thun though the side have struggled to find the net in the league.
In their match against West Brom today they will seek to eradicate this drought and add to their claim to at least a top half finish.
Liverpool will have to deal with Stoke's effective defence, but you get the impression from their recent victories over Bolton and Exeter that they can and should confidently find the net.
A significant occurrence that may aid Stoke's chances are their reported interest and possible acquisition of Spurs duo Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios. The Mail on Sunday reports that Stoke are in the running for both players in a £20 million swoop which may boost the attacking prowess of their squad.
In conclusion, if Liverpool arrive at the Britannia in much the same structure and style of play as shown in the early stages of this season then they can certainly take the three points. As long as they don't return to the lack of flare and goal scoring ability from last seasons fixture then they will at least avoid defeat.
Away to Tottenham
Spurs joined Blackpool last season in doing the double over Liverpool. The corresponding away fixture to their home game in a few weeks time saw Liverpool lose 2-1 under Roy Hodgson.
The second defeat at Anfield- the 2-0 loss in the penultimate game of the season was the most agonising result as Kenny Dalglish's resurgent run of form was excruciatingly undone by Harry Redknapp's side.
Liverpool will therefore be looking to enact revenge on Spurs this season. In the early stages they definitely do look to be the stronger side.
Whilst Spurs thrashed Scottish side Hearts in Europe their opening 3-0 league defeat at the hands of Manchester United shows that Redknapp's side have possibly fallen backwards in their potential from last season.
The unfortunate cancellation of their opening match against Everton- a match you expect they would have won- means that they could face Liverpool with very little in terms of points to their name.
They face Manchester City today in what will be a fixture they must take something from. If they leave empty-handed they may also find themselves bottom of the table.
The rumours surrounding Luca Modric continue and could hamper efforts at White Hart Lane, but reports are abound today that they may snatch former Liverpool player Craig Bellamy from under Kenny Dalglish's nose.
The Daily Mail reports that with a possible exit for Modric to Chelsea, they are attempting to bring Bellamy in to boost their opportunities in front of goal.
In a perfect world, Liverpool would cruise to a victory over Spurs. Yet what last season showed was that form meant nothing when these two sides met.
The Anfield collective will have to put in a consistent and disciplined performance against their rivals if they are to come away with a three-point haul.
They have shown in their match against Arsenal that this can be done against the better sides and subsequently should enable them to portray a similar defiance.
Home to Wolves
At the start of this season, Wolves may have appeared an easier target for Liverpool in their run in to Manchester United, but how times can change as Wolves have made one of their best starts to a league campaign.
Liverpool face Mick McCarthy's men at Anfield on September 24, seeking to reverse the 1-0 defeat inflicted on them last year. In what was the last match for Liverpool of 2010 even a return for Steven Gerrard could not stop Wolves from causing their eighth defeat of the campaign.
A lack of clinical finishing from Fernando Torres and an inconsistent David N'Gog meant a second half goal from Stephen Ward killed the game off and ensured Liverpool lost the confidence and dominance to equalize.
Strangely only three weeks later the side under new boss Kenny Dalglish thumped McCarthy's men 3-0. This was to be a first win back in charge for King Kenny and signaled a run of form that pushed Liverpool back up the table.
What we have to remember this season though, is that although the Liverpool side are more able in depth and talent, the Wolves side look more adapted to life in the Premiership. Early on critics were contemplating the ideal that Wolves may not face their usual relegation battle and fight to stay in English football's top tier.
A second string mauling of former Liverpool conquerors Northampton Town in the Carling Cup has followed inspired victories over Blackburn and Fulham.
Where Liverpool may feel confident in their ability to defeat Wolves is in the midland sides inability to carry on their momentum against Aston Villa. The Wanderers seemed to lack a strong influence up front and looked content to leave with a point and unbeaten run.
A similar performance against Liverpool would surely see the Anfield side take the advantage, especially if Suarez were to score early on.
Still based on all four of Liverpool's impending fixtures, Wolves surprisingly look the most competitive thus far, and therefore the most able to halt Kenny Dalglish's progress.
Away to Everton
One of the major feelings of hurt for Liverpool fan's last season came from the poor showing in both fixtures of the Merseyside derby.
Liverpool head to Everton October 1 in a tie that they comfortably lost 2-0 last year. That match came after a day where the Anfield side had just been brought by New England Sports Ventures.
Consequentially there was a wave of optimism sprung upon the side, which in the longer run has seen a wealth of benefits.
Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta punished a despondent Liverpool side however and a 2-2 home draw later in the season meant Everton took the spoils overall.
With this said though, you do not expect a repeat this season. Everton have begun the season poorly. Whilst their opening fixture against Spurs was canceled they showed little in the way of goal scoring ability and overall team potential with a catastrophic defeat at home to QPR and a lucky triumph over Blackburn yesterday.
Their saving grace has been a 3-1 victory over League 1 favourites Sheffield United in the Carling Cup, but the Toffees look out of their depth in the Premiership and may fight for a top half finish at best.
This game will feature after a hat trick of games against Villa, Wigan and Manchester City. With Everton's form at this moment in time, you can only see them taking something against perennial survivors Wigan.
Liverpool should easily take the advantage and buck the trend that Everton fans will have wished began with their dominance in the Merseyside derby last season. A returning Steven Gerrard by this point could only boost their opportunities to create chances.
It is easy to predict that Liverpool could gain four victories out of four before they face Manchester United in October.
The side has this week shown their capabilities to knock in goals on a regular basis, adding argument to their chances of defeating four teams who have scored less in the league so far.
Kenny Dalglish has forced upon the side a staunch defiance against the critics that professed the side have little chance of challenging for the title. Apart from their second half against Sunderland the Kop outfit look more than equipped to go the distance.
Youthful local players and an increased number of credible signings have meant that back up is available if required, something that hindered the side last season under Hodgson. Providing the likes of Suarez, Kuyt and new boys Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson stay fit the side has a team able to create chances and work cohesively to produce results.
Wolverhampton Wanderers will pose a greater threat overall than last season and will not go down lightly. Stoke and Spurs are still finding their feet also and will push Liverpool to their limits. Everton should however be a comfortable three points.
The requirement you feel is to at least gain two wins from the games and a triumph over Spurs to portray their renewed advantage for Champions League qualification.
The result if all goes well is that Liverpool could head to Anfield against Alex Ferguson's men with the lead in the table to fight for, instead of the usual deficit needing to be closed.
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