Friday, 27 November 2009

Will Anyone Top The Kop?

With Liverpool's poor form continuing, will any team take advantage and break into the top four?

Liverpool are currently sat in 7th place in the Barclays Premier League table, five points adrift of a Champions League place, the last of which is currently occupied by Tottenham. So far in the season it looks like this is one of the best opportunities for a new club to join the Premier Leagues 'elite' in the Champions League. Liverpool have already lost five league games this season and have crashed out of both the Carling Cup and Champions league. Showing their weaknesses and a lack of strength in depth.

Every player, manager and fan of one of the chasing teams should see this as a great opportunity and a great challenge to test themselves. In my opinion there are three teams with a realistic chance of finishing in the top four; Tottenham, Man City and Aston Villa. They all have squads capable of lasting the season, bar some major injury crisis, which is where I think teams such as Sunderland, on the same points total as Liverpool at the moment, falter as their starting eleven is good, but the bench and squad players often lack the same quality.

Looking at the three squads, Tottenham have the best equipped squad for me, they have strength in depth in all departments even though some of their big players such as Luca Modric are currently injured. Man City on the other hand have strength in depth too, but still seem to be trying to find the perfect mix of defence and attack. One advantage Man City do have is that they are guaranteed to have money to purchase players in the January transfer window, something that cannot be said for the other teams or even for Liverpool.

All three clubs have a good fan base and will be filling their stadiums for the majority of the season, which could well be vital to give their team that extra energy to grind out results towards the close of the season. Having a '12th man' in football, though a bit of a cliché, can be a huge advantage.

The outcome also depends on how the players and managers cope with the pressure. They may not be feeling it now, but if they suddenly find themselves with a real chance of qualifying for the Champions League it will be interesting to see how they cope with the media hype and pressure. Last season saw Aston Villa lose their 4th place position, partly down to Arsenal having a very strong second half of the season but I also feel some players struggled with the pressure of not being the underdog and almost being expected to win every game.

Of course luck will play its part as well, with possible refereeing decisions or injuries damaging a team’s chances. As of yet I am unsure if Liverpool failing to get out of the group stages of the Champions League is good or bad news. It's bad news as now Liverpool will be fully focused on the Premier League and they will have set themselves the minimum target of fourth. However the fact that they are out of the competition means that there will not be a repeat of the 2004/5 season where despite Liverpool finishing fifth, they still qualified for the following seasons tournament as they were the eventual winners.

The bad news for Liverpool fans is that even at this relatively early stage of the season, their fate is not in their own hands. But the biggest question is, will anyone seal their fate and beat them to a place in the Champions League?