Yes it was a League Cup Tie between two teams who made a raft of changes with upcoming EPL games in mind but still it was impossible not to be impressed with the way Liverpool dismantled Southampton at St Mary’s on Thursday morning. Jurgen Klopp took a gamble when he practically called Daniel Sturridge a wimp over his habit of declaring himself unfit. But the Liverpool striker, making his first start under the German, responded by scoring a devastating brace to bash a Saints side who were given a one goal head start practically straight from the kick off. Liverpool have now won seven of their last eight, are still competing for four trophies and most telling of all are now only four points off the Holy Grail of the top four. The one blemish on the 7 from 8 run was the home defeat to Crystal Palace, and that glimpse of frailty sets up their next three league games perfectly. In the run up to Christmas, the Reds visit the Toon followed by a dead rubber in the Europa league and two very winnable looking games at home to West Brom and away to Watford. Nine points from those three and I fancy Liverpool will be unwrapping presents with less than four places between themselves and the league leaders. It is safe to assume Steve McClaren was watching Liverpool’s midweek six goal jaunt and even safer to assume he won’t be getting much sleep from now until Sunday. Quite how a man better known for carrying a brolly on the touchline than winning the Eredivisie in Holland can raise his troops for a rampant Liverpool who have won five of their last six against teams starting the day in the bottom half of the table is anyone’s guess.
Gary Neville’s shock appointment as Valencia manager is the equivalent of Carlos Puyol being given the Arsenal job and it is going to be fascinating to see play out. Just weeks after David Moyes was cast aside by Real Sociedad as a failure in La Liga, another big name from EPL history has been given the reigns in Spain and this time at an even bigger club. Valencia’s Singapore owner Peter Lim is an unashamed Manchester United fan boy and having put his SGD in to save the club from a financial black hole, is entitled to make the big decisions as he sees fit. However, after internal civil war at the Mestalla over the summer, the natives are restless and the Neville brothers will need to impress quickly. I can’t understand why Gary Neville was being presented to the Spanish media on Thursday but doesn’t take charge until Sunday. It is an ever increasing trend of new managers to pretend they are not really in charge of the clubs first match and I think it is pathetic. Some will argue that with Saturday night’s match being at home to Barcelona he is being shrewd (!) but the fact of the matter is he WILL be Valencia’s head-master for that game so the move to make his first ‘official’ match the must win UCL clash against Lyon is fooling no-one. Why doesn’t G. Neville show some ‘Cahonas’ and front up to the European Champions straight off the bat? It is not as if anyone expects them to pick up three points. In fairness however, Neville the elder deserves respect for walking away from an incredibly well paid job as British television’s standout lead football pundit, something that his TV predecessor, Andy Gray famously declined to do when offered the Everton job in 1997.
I leave you with this thought, Daniel Sturridge has spent most of the season flat on his back on the treatment table but has now scored more domestic goals (4) than Wayne Rooney (three).