From the editor’s notebook …
The 3-0 beating pushes Liverpool 14 points clear of United in the Premier League table and, more importantly, leaves the Reds just four points back of league-leaders Chelsea (and holding a game in hand). With a spot in next year’s Champions League almost locked up with nine games to go in the season, the question now becomes: can Liverpool claim its first Premier League title in 24 years?
Captain Steven Gerrard thinks so.
“We’ve showed today that we are genuine contenders and we are going to fight to the end for this,” he said in published reports. “We believe it, but I’ve said many times that in football the easiest thing to do is talk the talk. We’ve got to go and treat Cardiff like Manchester United and we’ve got to treat Sunderland like Manchester United. If we do we will win a lot of games until the end of the season. The rest of the teams around us have to believe we’re going for it.”
The win was Liverpool’s fifth consecutive in the league – they haven’t lost since their Dec. 29 match with Chelsea – and the club has taken 26 points out of its past 10 games.
And much of the credit goes to manager Brendan Rodgers.
When Rodgers took over the team before the 2012-13 season, Liverpool was running on fumes, an eighth-place club that wasn’t good enough to challenge the top teams and was living off its past glory. Rodgers came to Anfield preaching patience – something we are far too familiar with here in Cleveland.
“I believe we are equipped (to meet expectations),” Rodgers said prior to the start of his first season in charge. “Next year will be better than this, when we have had time to work, maybe get the type of players I’d want. But at the minute I have very good players, good guys, whose intentions are right. They want to work hard and work well and embrace the ideas. It’s a case of growing and improving the focus and fighting to win. I’m happy with what we have got.”
The thought of having to be patient may have been a little bit hard to take at first, but now, less than two years later, Rodgers has actually turned this team around. (Which gives us hope for the teams a little closer to home.)
Rodgers handled the Luis Suárez situation without letting Suárez’ suspension became an issue with the team, has blended Suárez and Daniel Sturridge into the best offensive tandem in the league, has got Gerrard to accept a new role on the pitch, and is currently making all the right moves.
“I think the biggest thing in terms of where we’ve come in the past year is belief,” Rodgers told Sky Sports. “We now inherently believe in what we’re doing. We’ve played a number of systems this year but the style stays the same. We want a team of dominance on the ball and aggressiveness in attack.”
It’s amazing how quickly Rodgers has been able to turn things around. Will it be enough to win the title this year? As well as things are going right now that may still be too tall of an order. Liverpool still needs Chelsea and Manchester City, which has two games in hand on the Reds, to stumble and there is no doubt they have to beat both sides when they visit Anfield next month.
But with each passing win, it’s getting easier and easier to believe.
Good news, bad news on Kyrie Irving
Irving injured his biceps during Sunday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and luckily it is reportedly only a strained tendon rather than a tear. Still, Irving will be out for a while, which should pretty much kill any lingering hope that the Cavs could make the playoffs.
And that may not be such a bad thing.
Cleveland currently has 15 games left and are 4.5 games behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Even with a fully healthy team, the Cavs would have faced a big challenge to catch the Hawks and, even if they did, would most likely have been looking at a first-round sweep in the playoffs.
While the Cavs need to make the playoffs at some point, missing them again this year may not be such a bad thing. This team probably isn’t as bad as it has looked this year, but it may not be all that good, either. If they were to make the playoffs, the feeling among the front office may be that the Cavs are close to being contenders and only a few minor tweaks are needed.
The Cavs really need to take a hard look at things this summer and missing out on the playoffs may allow them to take a clearer look at the current situation.
Falling further out of the playoff picture will also remove the temptation to rush Irving back. While we’d hate to see Irving’s season end with an injury, especially since he had only missed three games this season, but giving him a few extra days of rest won’t hurt anyone in the long run.
Brandon Weeden finds a new home
In what has to be considered a bit of a surprise, it only took former Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden less than a week to find a new team – and it is one that plays south of the Canadian border.
Weeden agreed to a two-year contract on Monday with the Dallas Cowboys and with Kyle Orton not sure he wants to come back to the Cowboys in 2014, Weeden could wind up as the backup to Tony Romo.
Which means when Romo gets hurt at the end of the season this fall and the Cowboys are 8-7 and trying to grab the NFC East’s playoff spot on the final weekend of the season, we may be watching Weeden on Sunday Night Football leading the Cowboys offense.
Won’t that be something?
(Photo by Getty Images and The Associated Press)