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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sports

THE PEOPLE’S GAME: English club struggling in league


Liverpool has carved out a name for itself as a top-flight English soccer club, but lately its form has slipped.

Fans remember last season’s fight for dominance of the Premiere League, wondering what happened to the championship-caliber soccer they are used to seeing.

Liverpool’s fall to seventh place is a long way from where the club is accustomed to finishing. This year, Tottenham and Manchester City are playing their best soccer and with the usual results from powerhouses Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, the battle to regain momentum seems like an uphill struggle.

Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool has some of the best players in the world. Guys like Dirk Kuyt, Jamie Carragher and Javier Mascherano will make it difficult for any opponent to score on a regular basis.

Fans were a little wary about losing Xabier Alonso, but Mascherano and Lucas Leiva have kept the team competitive.

The problem with Liverpool, however, is the same as the asset that has made them great. They have relied too much on captain Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. When they are both fit and out of prison, the team seems unbeatable.

Something happens when those two players take the pitch and no team seems to have an answer for it.

Gerrard’s fluid movement and leadership of won him another spot on the England national team and Torres is arguably the best striker in the world. Liverpool almost seems like a different club without the duo – a team without any confidence or creativity.

There have been problems with them on the pitch as well. Gerrard seems to have lost his touch, shying away from taking the big shot that gave him his current status.

Torres has been fighting a groin injury all season and has only played a handful of matches feeling 100 percent. This has not slowed him, however, from scoring 10 goals in 12 matches, the best of any striker in the Premiership.

Liverpool has problems with players other than their two stars, as injuries have plagued the entire squad.

Alonso missing from the lineup has opened up the field to try different combinations of players in different positions.

One player who has shown his worth is Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun. He has stepped up in matches where the team has faltered without its two leaders and is becoming a permanent fixture at Anfield stadium.

Benayoun is doubtful for the match against Manchester City – a match that might help show the world Liverpool is still not out of the race.

Defender Daniel Agger has battled back problems after a fierce tackle with a Birmingham City striker. Agger was trying to shield the ball away from Cameron Jerome when the two barreled into each other.

Albert Riera has also been hit hard with injuries. Starting in nearly every game last season while racking up over 1,800 minutes of playing time, he has only played 300 in the last 12 matches.

Liverpool is currently 11 points behind table leader Chelsea, who beat them 2-0 several weeks ago. Liverpool has only managed four points in eight games, losing six of them.

Still, manager Rafael Benitez thinks they still have a shot of winning the title.

I don’t see Chelsea losing any speed, and the way Cesc Fabregas is leading the young Arsenal side, Liverpool might have waited a little too long for a comeback.

There is an international break coming up so players will have time to nurse their injuries and hopefully Benitez can find a way to spark some motivation in his players.

Until then, fans will have to wait for the Manchester City game and pray that Liverpool’s best player, Torres, does not need surgery.

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