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Liverpool Club Focus - Agger absence hurting Reds

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By Mushtaq Quraishi

Monday 26 March 2012

Lacklustre Liverpool’s poor Premier League form continued as they slumped to a shock 2-1 home defeat at the hands of lowly Wigan on Saturday. It was the Reds’ fifth top-flight defeat in six games – leaving them a massive 13 points behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur with just eight matches remaining. While clinching that final Champions League spot has looked out of reach for some time, Kenny Dalglish will be more worried that his side are a significant eight points behind the team who sit just a single place above them – Newcastle United.

Fortunately for Liverpool, Europa League qualification has already been assured thanks to their recent Carling Cup triumph at Wembley, therefore the Merseysiders have no real incentive to finish any higher up in the table. However, supporters still expect to see the Reds end the season on a high, and Dalglish is coming under increasing pressure with each defeat.

The Scotsman could do no wrong this time last year, when he turned Liverpool’s fortunes around after taking over from Roy Hodgson on what was initially a temporary basis. Indeed, the majority of fans were urging co-owner John Henry to hand the manager a permanent contract. And while supporters are not quite calling for Dalglish’s head just yet, there are some murmurs of discontent.

The Liverpool legend, who once guided Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title, blamed tiredness and injuries for the defeat against Wigan. He told Liverpoolfc.tv: "We had a lot of possession in the game but we gave away the ball quite a lot in vital positions. It's not because they can't play, it's because of tiredness. If you play Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday it's going to take its toll. A lot of the lads had played all three games, and for us that's a reason behind our performance. It's because of the demand on them with games, and we've not had enough players at our disposal to give them adequate rest.”

Based on some of the statistics, the absence of one man in particular has hurt the Reds. Danish centre-back Daniel Agger has missed the last five games through injury – and Liverpool have lost four of them, conceding eight goals in the process. In the 20 games that the defender has started this season, Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets. Indeed, the Reds have failed to deny the opposition a goal when Agger has failed to start. And while Martin Skrtel has been widely praised for his performances this season, it appears as though the Slovakian is not as reliable at the back without his injury-prone partner alongside him at the heart of the Merseysiders’ defence.

Dalglish will be hoping that Agger is available for selection when the Reds are next in action against Newcastle on April 1. A win at the Sports Direct Arena would give Liverpool a reasonable chance of catching Alan Pardew’s side in the table before the season comes to a close. Any other result would heap further pressure on Dalglish.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle v Liverpool

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