The fate of Liverpools season rests on their next two games, and tightly linked to this is the job of manager Rafa Benitez. Liverpool need a win tonight against Marseilles in France to progress to the knockout stage of the Champions League, and a result on Sunday, when they host Manchester United, to stay on the tails of Arsenal, United and Chelsea.
The idea that their season could be all but over before Christmas, if results go against them this week, is one that Liverpool should be well used to, in the league anyway, but is not what Liverpool feel they deserve. However if they are to step up to be actual challengers to Arsenal, United and Chelsea, something that only those who follow Liverpool already think they are, they need to improve on pitch performances. So far they have talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.
The nature of the English Premier League means that on any given day any team can beat any team. This is born out when you look at the games lost by the top teams in recent weeks, United lost to a Bolton side in bottom 3, Arsenal to a Middlesbrough team faring little bitter, and Liverpool to Reading. However the nature of the losses is something to take notice of. United and Arsenal both at off days against teams that were prepared and drilled for the battle. Both United and Arsenal were beaten on the day but kept trying to rescue themselves until the final whistle had blown. Liverpool did not show this fight. They had all but given up by the 70th minute, when their three best players, Gerrard, Torres and Caragher, where all taken off. 3-1 down with 20 minutes to play and they had thrown in the towel. Hardly what is expected of a title challenger.
With Rafa taking his feud with the Liverpool owners into the public he will have very little board room support should Liverpool lose either match, and could find himself out of a job if they fail in both games. He has had time and money and has failed to take Liverpool anywhere near a league title. This season will be their 17th in a row without winning the league. Rafa may not be around to see them in their 18th.