Luis Suarez is one of the cornerstones of Liverpool's attack but he is looking jaded as of late. – AFP Photo
WITH just 10 matches to go in the 2001-02 season, former manager Gerard Houllier famously declared Liverpool were 10 games away from greatness.
His Liverpool team had done the treble the season before and all eyes were on the greatest prize that season. His Liverpool team won nine of the 10 games – losing to Tottenham Hotspur – but were eventually beaten by Arsenal, who won the league.
A second place finish was what he salvaged and that was the last time Liverpool finished above rivals Manchester United in the league.
With Liverpool having the weekend off, and just 10 games to go, the reality now at Anfield is that Liverpool are contenders once again. The last time the team were in the mix was when they crumbled towards the end to finish second to Manchester United in the 2008-09 season.
There is no question that Brendan Rodgers has worked miracles at Anfield. The attack is frightening and the defence, judging by the last game against Southampton, is, at best, an improvement. I would think he is tactically the most adaptable manager when it comes to setting his team out and I believe he will fix the defence in time.
With the squad having little experience winning the league, only Glen Johnson has a winner’s medal, the question is, do the squad have what it takes? I sense Liverpool are on the verge of really contending not only now but also in the future.
So, what are the 10 things Liverpool need to do over the next 10 games?
1. Focus. Nerves will surely get increasingly frazzled the closer Liverpool are towards fulfilling the dreams of a generation of fans. The team need to keep calm and play their game.
2. Pray for health. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are the cornerstone of attack and they have catapulted Liverpool to the top four to be reckoned with as contenders. Although Suarez is an ironman, he is looking jaded and Sturridge has been plagued by injury in the past.
3. The Kop need to be heard. Big games are coming to Anfield and the Kop needs to be at full voice behind the team. The 12th man should will the team to victory at home.
4. Win the big matches. Liverpool host Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham at Anfield and they need to win those big games. Just replay what it took to slaughter Arsenal at Anfield.
5. Sort out the defence. The clean sheet against Southampton was the first in the last six games. Although the defence is getting used to returning injured players, the worry is just how fast will they gel.
6. Stay the course. By now, Rodgers knows who he wants in the first team and the type of formation he should play. But ever the tactical tinkerer, Rodgers needs to really deliberate whether constant changes are needed.
7. Full throttle ahead. Liverpool play a number of relegation-threatened teams in the final stretch this season. There are no easy games and the team need to go full throttle regardless of who they play.
8. Will the others drop points? It’s a tough and tall task to win the remaining 10 games and for Liverpool to clinch the dream, Chelsea and Manchester City need to drop points. That will likely happen given the parity in the league this season.
9. Attack. Liverpool have the firepower. The reason why the counter-attacking style has worked is because our attacking players track back and defend. That commitment is crucial as it allows Liverpool to launch counter-attacks and utilise the pace of the players they have.
10. Shut up. Rodgers shouldn’t talk about winning the title. Leave that to the fans and pundits. Every time the words “challengers” or “title” are muttered by Rodgers, Liverpool have a setback. Let your smile do the talking.
Jagdev Singh Sidhu can’t wait for the game next week.