Momentum is a crucial force at this point in the season and there was a danger that Liverpool’s was going the other way, a downward trend that would see Brendan Rodgers’ side miss out on the Champions League. But with the help of Raheem Sterling, the Reds put their foot back on the gas with a comfortable with over Newcastle.
Liverpool – on the back of consecutive Premier League defeats against Arsenal and Manchester United – were faced with the ideal opposition on Monday night, a Magpies side that almost to a man have their minds elsewhere, be it on the beach or at whichever club they join for next season. It was a performance so devoid of intensity it appeared the Newcastle squad had been on something even stronger than whatever Sterling allegedly partook in.
But Sterling, regardless of the front page stories, played a crucial role at Anfield. He scored the first goal of Liverpool’s 2-0 win and could have had a couple more. With a bit of composure Sterling might have claimed a hat-trick, but instead had to settle for one goal and 30 EuroFantasyLeague points. If he had plundered a few more it wouldn’t have been a harsh score line as Liverpool were comfortable, and Newcastle complacent. It also would have bolstered Liverpool’s Champions League challenge that little bit more.
With an FA Cup quarter-final replay win over Blackburn Rovers, the cruise past Newcastle and next the cup semi-final with Aston Villa, Liverpool can end the season on a high – and do so as Manchester City stagger to the close of the campaign. The champions are riven with international strife and dogged by speculation. Whether their lacklustre performances are because of the gossip or are only adding to it is impossible to say but it seems from the outside a deeply unhappy camp. City, like Newcastle, give the impression of simply wishing the season would end sooner rather than later.
There are six league games left to play for Liverpool and City and only four points between them. City, in fourth, would not have considered that, having beaten Liverpool to the title last year, they’re now fighting the same opposition for the last Champions League spot. It certainly wasn’t in the playbook of the likes of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, the former Barcelona executives calling the shots at the Etihad Stadium. How and why City find themselves in this situation is a topic that will be discussed at length whether they finish fourth or fifth.
City now need to find a way to turn the momentum around. Liverpool had the FA Cup to do it, a winnable game against Championship opposition. City don’t have that luxury. Instead they have West Ham as their next opponents and the Hammers, though on the back of a decent season, have nothing to play for. City’s players have fourth and their futures, but that might not be enough.
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