Club Focus – Liverpool – Dismal draw but signs still positive for Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish’s return to European football as Liverpool manager may not have got off to the best of starts with a lacklustre 0-0 draw against Sparta Prague, however the Reds are still in a strong position to qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League. Although an away goal would have helped their cause, the Merseysiders remain favourites to progress when they face the same opposition for the second leg at Anfield next week.

Despite failing to beat the Czech side, Liverpool remain unbeaten in seven matches, in what has been one of their best spells of the season so far. Dalglish has transformed this team and the players are far more confident in their approach, showing greater positivity, better movement and playing some neat football involving many passes. Under Roy Hodgson, the Reds rarely controlled games and appeared to be on the back foot during long periods of matches, nevertheless Liverpool are now dominating possession and creating more chances whilst remain solid at the back. These factors have helped lighten the mood amongst supporters over the last couple of months.

Nonetheless, Liverpool may be gradually improving and are certainly now harder to beat than during the early parts of the season, however on reflection this goalless draw against Sparta Prague was relatively poor. The Reds may have been missing some key players, but even still they rarely looked like they were going to win the game and at times it turned into a dismal encounter. Their opponents, who are currently on a winter break in their league, should have been slightly easier to face because of this. However, the home side deserved the draw overall and will themselves quietly fancy their chances of progressing.

The Reds were without Luis Suarez who is ineligible to participate in the Europa League for the rest of the campaign, whilst skipper Steven Gerrard also missed out along with Danish defender Daniel Agger. The latter two should be back in time for the next leg. Their absence meant the likes of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Danny Wilson and David Ngog came into the mix, giving them the chance to impress Dalglish. Joe Cole was also given a 50 minute run out after he came on as a first half replacement for the injured Fabio Aurelio. The inclusion of Wilson, Ngog and Cole will delight the boss, who now has a somewhat better idea about whether these players should be in contention to start in the Premier League soon.

Meanwhile, young starlet Raheem Sterling, who was the main talking point prior to the game, was not even named on the bench. Sterling scored a fantastic five goals in the FA Youth Cup earlier in the week, and many thought he would make a brief appearance during this European clash; however he was instead given the opportunity to travel with the squad and experience the atmosphere of a European away game. Sterling’s time will soon come, but for now the Reds have a week to prepare before they meet Sparta Prague again at Anfield in the second leg.

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