There’s a song in the Jason Robert Brown musical The Last Five Years called ‘The Next Ten Minutes’. Here are some of the lyrics sung by one of the show’s characters Cathy:
Will you share your life with me
For the next ten minutes?
For the next ten minutes
We can handle that
We could watch the waves
We could watch the sky
Or just sit and wait
As the time ticks by
And if we make it till then
Can I ask you again
For another ten?
That’s a little bit how things feel for Liverpool at the moment. That if we can just make it through the next ten games together then who knows where we’ll be? Maybe in a situation where we can ask for ten more and see what happens.
Admittedly there are eleven games between now and the turn of the year, but there isn’t a song called ‘The Next Eleven Minutes’ so I had to work with what was available. I was interested to see that The Daily Star have done a prediction table for the matches between now and Christmas and believe that the Reds will be fifth when Santa hangs his hat up for another year. It got me thinking: What is likely to happen between now and the start of 2017? Here’s my personal prediction for the months ahead.
The Rest Of October
We’ve got a difficult game coming up against West Brom this weekend, there’s no two ways about it. Tony Pulis knows how to kill a game dead almost as well as José Mourinho, though in Pulis’ defence he hasn’t spent more money than any manner in the history of football to do it. Jürgen Klopp knows things won’t be easy and spoke in his press conference about the need for patience. That will apply to the crowd as well the footballers, of course.
Hull came to Anfield and attempted to apply a low block, but Hull are a terrible football team who will be lucky to avoid relegation this season. United did it too but have a better manager and better players than the Tigers. Do West Brom sit somewhere in the middle? They have players and a manager who specialise in stopping teams from scoring, so seeing how the Reds cope with this challenge will be really interesting and could set the precedent for the rest of the season.
After West Brom have come and stunk the place out we have a home game against Spurs to worry about. I haven’t included this in my ‘eleven games’ as it’s a cup match and I’ve really only got my sights set on the Premier League title. The only question is regarding how strong Klopp will go. The truth is that we battered Spurs at White Hart Lane earlier in the season but failed to walk away with all three points. They’ve been playing brilliantly since and our manager has a chance to lay down a marker by playing them off the pitch and making it through to the quarter-finals of a competition we nearly won last term.
October is rounded off with a trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace. Alan Pardew’s men have endured a mixed start to the season. They earned a 1-1 draw with the Blues at Goodison Park but lost at home to West Ham and struggled to beat a genuinely woful Sunderland team.Christian Benteke might feel he’s got a point to prove against the man who sold him in the summer and we still don’t look like we’ve got to grips with defending set-pieces, so I’m going to tentatively suggest that we might draw this one. Still, four points from the six available and progress in the EFL Cup is nothing to be sniffed at for October, should we manage it.
Presuming that we do get past Spurs then November will have a quarter-final fixture for the EFL Cup, but without knowing about that one way or another there’s not much point planning for it. Instead I’ll have a quick look at the Premier League fixtures for the month of Guy Fawkes, starting with the arrival of Watford at Anfield.
There were a number of disappointing results in Jürgen Klopp’s first partial season in charge of the club, but few were as much of a let down as the 3-0 loss to Watford on the 20th of December. The Hornets embarrassed us at Vicarage Road, if we’re honest, and the 2-0 home won over them last May did little to make up for that. So far this term they would probably argue that they’ve been a little bit unlucky, earning some great results and probably deserving more from their games against Arsenal and Chelsea.
Of course there have been changes at Watford since last season, with Walter Mazzarri coming in to replace Quique Sanchez Flores despite the Spaniard actually doing much better with them than many predicted. Mazzarri has built on Flores’ work and made them tighter at the back and decent in attack – something Manchester United discovered when they lost 3-1 at Vicarage Road last month. I think that, provided we don’t pick up any injuries or anything, we’ll have too much for them at Anfield. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the return game later in the season, though…
This summer saw us return to the Southampton gift shop to splurge yet more money on a Saints player. For a while it caused a bit of a stink with some Liverpool fans, annoyed that we went shopping on the South Coast rather than in Germany for a player such as Götze. The anger didn’t last long, however, with Sadio Mané’s performances proving to be anything but a disappointment. Comparisons to John Barnes were quick to be made and not entirely wrong, whilst our other Southampton signings – Lallana, Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne in particular – pointed out that they’ve actually done pretty well themselves after a mildly bumpy start.
Much like Watford, Southampton have also brought in a new manager this season. Ronald Koeman’s weird decision to move to Everton opened the door for Claude Puel to come in and he’s actual done quite a good job at St. Mary’s so far. They’ve notched up three draws, three wins and two losses in the league. The good news for the Reds is their two losses came against other ‘big’ sides in Man United and Arsenal, but the bad news is that they were both away games. Can we inflict their first home defeat? It won’t be easy.
Liverpool fans hate the notion of jinxing things and it’s happened too many times before for me to get cocky, but Sunderland are woeful. David Moyes turned up at The Stadium Of Light and immediately began the Hodgson-esque managing of expectations that has become de rigeur for managers with limited ability. They are still to win a game this season, drawing 1-1 with Southampton and West Brom for the two points they’ve managed to get on the board. If our old pal Moyesey is still in charge come the end of November this is as close to a ‘banker’ as you can get – complacency not withstanding.
We play as many games in December as we do in the rest of October and November combined, so I’ll make my way through these quite quickly. The truth is that this month and January are the hardest to predict, with the games coming so thick and fast that injuries will always play a part. We’ve got a good-sized, talented squad though, so we may be alright regardless.
The Cherries are a nice team to play against. They’re not pushovers, as their 6-1 win over Hull showed, but they’re also the ideal sort of team to face when there’s a lot going on. Get a goal against them early and you fancy that they’ll be happy enough seeing out the 90 minutes and accepting that Liverpool probably isn’t one of the teams that they need to be beating for their survival. All being well this should be another three points.
We played West Ham four times last season and didn’t win one of them. That’s depressing, so we’ll really be hoping to put that right this time out. The thing with the Hammers is that so much of their game revolves around Dmitri Payet. If he plays well then they can cause you real problems, but he hasn’t yet hit the same heights that he managed last time out. Their season hasn’t gone swimmingly so far, however, and Slaven Bilic will feel he has a lot to do to get them back on track. Hopefully revenge will be ours as a nice early Christmas present.
There are no easy games in the Premier League, as they say, and a trip to the Riverside presents its own challenges. At the time of writing ‘Boro are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference and are yet to win a home game, so Klopp will probably feel that this is a game we should be winning. Everyone turns it on when the Reds come to town, though, so it’s not a banker by any stretch of the imagination.
The Blues enjoyed a decent start to the season under Koeman and their 1-1 draw with Manchester City last weekend made a few people sit up and take notice. This is our hardest game of the month apart from the last one of the year, so don’t be surprised to see us drop points in the derby for the first time under Klopp. They’ll want revenge for their utter humiliation at Anfield, too. I still think we’ll sneak a win, but it could be closer than some are predicting.
Mark Hughes’ side have hit a bit of form of late, spurred on by the now-outed-as-a-Manchester-United-supporter Joe Allen. Our former midfielder has scored four goals so far this campaign, apparently becoming a prolific goalscorer since leaving Liverpool. They’re still in the relegation zone, however, and have only managed to beat Sunderland. Given we’re at home I fancy us to take another 3 points here.
One way or another there will be fireworks on New Years Eve. Manchester City come to Anfield for the late kick-off on the last day of the year and all of the attention will be on the two managers. Prior to the 3-3 draw between City and Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic in the Champions League Pep had won ten games in all competitions, including an away win against Manchester United. Mourinho’s side were arguably the only genuinely difficult side they’d faced, however, and they’ve since gone on to lose to Spurs, draw at home to Everton and concede 4 to Barcelona. I daren’t make a prediction, but I think it will be a cracking match.
Football is almost impossible to predict. Injuries, form and refereeing performances can all have an unwelcome effect on games that you feel are going to be easy wins, whilst perceived tougher matches sometimes go better than you could have imagined. This run of eleven games will tell us a lot about just how good this Liverpool team is and if we can end the year with something like 27 points from the 33 available I think we’ll be very well placed indeed.