We’re very grateful to my old school mate, Liverpool fan John Taylor-Burge, for giving us the lowdown on the Reds ahead of Fulham’s trip to Anfield on Sunday.
HammyEnd: Liverpool moved into the Europa League semi-finals with an impressive win over Benfica on Thursday night. Will that give them some added confidence ahead of Sunday’s home game against Fulham?
John: Benfica are the top team in Portugal at the moment, and have been on an exceptional run recently, 27 games unbeaten I think it was. So for Liverpool to overcome the 1st leg deficit and win in such a convincing manner will be a massive confidence boost for everyone at the club. Especially for the likes of Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt who have received a lot of criticism this season, both getting on the scoresheet will have given them a huge lift.
HammyEnd: How do you rate Liverpool’s chances of reaching fourth place and Champions’ League qualification? Do they have to win every game?
John: I think we can afford a draw against Chelsea when they visit Anfield, but we definitely should be thinking about winning all our remaining games. City and Spurs have a much tougher run in, plus they have to play each other which is why I still think we’re in with a fairly good chance of snatching fourth spot, but when you depend on other teams’ results you can never be certain.
HammyEnd: Liverpool fans seem to be split on Rafa Benitez. How do you view the manager’s position?
John: I’m a huge fan of Rafa’s and feel an awful lot of the criticism he receives is completely unjustified. I look at it this way, Rafa loves Liverpool Football Club, nobody can question that, and everything he does is in the best interests of the club. Most top European managers would have walked out considering the state of affairs at board level, even with clubs like Real Madrid and Juventus showing interest in him, he’s still here, he’s a true professional. He’s still got a few years of his contract left to run, so if the board were to sack him it would set them back a lot of money that they don’t seem to have. Rafa attracts world class players to the club like Torres and Mascherano and hopefully more in the future. In my eyes his position is safe.
HammyEnd: How crucial to Liverpool’s chances are Steven Gerrard and Fernandes Torres? Where should Benitez be looking to strengthen in the summer?
John: Gerrard and Torres are the key to any future success at Liverpool, when they’re both on form they’ve got to be considered as one of the most deadly duos in world football I don’t think any defence could handle them. Liverpool have a very strong spine in the first team: Reina, Agger, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres all have important roles to play. I feel we’re in need of better wide players, competition for a place in the team is always healthy, that’s what we’re currently lacking.
HammyEnd: There’s been a lot of protests about the American owners at Anfield lately. How interested are you in that situation? Is it something your fellow Liverpool fans talk about?
John: They’ve made a number of promises which have since been broken. New Stadium … nothing. No debt on the club… there’s plenty. Investment in new players… not after having to sell good players like Alonso first. The Spirit of Shankly supporters group is picking up more and more support with every game that goes by, I saw first hand at the Sunderland game how big a deal it is for them. It’s certainly an issue for the true Liverpool supporters in and around the city. Things can’t carry on like this, that’s for sure.
HammyEnd: What do you think about Fulham? Is there anyone you are particularly worried about ahead of Sunday’s game?
John: Fulham are looking fantastic under Hodgson, he’s found a good balance in the team and there looks to be a great team spirit amongst the players. Going to Craven Cottage isn’t a fixture teams look forward to at the moment. Of course we will have to keep an eye on an ex-Red, Danny Murphy, who is an excellent, captain, playmaker and can be deadly from set-pieces. Then there’s the added skill and trickery of Dempsey and Duff in the midfield to go with the finishing ability of Bobby Zamora, who in my opinion definitely deserves to be going to South Africa this summer considering the outstanding season he’s having.
HammyEnd: Finally, a score prediction from you …
John: I think Fulham’s journey in Europe has hindered their league performances recently so I think Liverpool will win. Having just been to Germany, Fulham now have to travel to Anfield, and Torres always scores at Anfield. In contrast it’s a consecutive home game for the Reds who will have a lot of momentum after the victory against Benfica. My prediction is 3-1 to Liverpool.