It could easily all go horribly horribly wrong. At the start of the season, Liverpool were being touted as the team to win the English Premier League title and also to go on a great run in the UEFA Champions League but as we head into Christmas, things aren’t looking as rosy that they ought to have right now.
If anything, Liverpool are in massive danger of losing the plot altogether. They play French club Olympique de Marseille on Tuesday in their ultimate match in the group phase in the Champions League in Group A and could just be knocked out. Marseille already humbled Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield in the opening day and now they have a chance to do a double bill at the Stade Velodrome.
Marseille might lie 13th in the French league table and are just 3 points above safety while Liverpool are fourth in the Premiership but the two teams have had contrasting fortunes in Europe so far. While Marseille have improved consistently and have come as near as a draw to qualify for the knockout stages, Liverpool have had a poor run so far. Although that 4-1 demolition of FC Porto in their last match flared up hopes once more, the truth is that all dreams and expectations could be crushed this week.
Group A is really tight. All the four teams have the chance to go through to the last 16 but Porto and Marseille are the favourites. Porto need just a draw from their final game against Besiktas and the Turkish club needs to beat the Portuguese champions to qualify.
A Liverpool win would see Rafael Benitez’s team qualify at the expense of Marseille but a loss sees them bow out whatever the result between Porto and Besiktas. A draw with Marseille might not be good enough for the Reds should Besiktas fail to win in Porto since Marseille beat Liverpool at Anfield. If Besiktas do win their match and Liverpool draw, then they go through as the second team in the group on the virtue of possessing a better head-to-head match record.
Seems complicated, doesn’t it? Yes and that is why Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool will be all out to wrestle a result at the Stade Velodrome. But the presence of a certain Boudewijn Zenden in the Marseille team on Tuesday evening implies that Liverpool’s task of beating the 1993 European champions a little bit more difficult.
The former Dutch international had been a crucial player at Anfield from 2005 to 2007 and appeared in last season’s Champions League final against AC Milan. He says that his Marseille team are the favorites to go through to the Last 16.
Zenden said to BBC Sport:
In a way we’re favorites as we’re at home and we have our fans behind us. We’ll approach this game as one we must win. A draw might not be enough.
And a draw might not enough either for Rafael Benitez in holding onto his position as the manager of Liverpool. Although an overwhelming majority of Liverpool fans want Rafa to continue, the club’s American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have been reported to be dissatisfied with the Spaniard, especially after he publicly derided the American duo of not committing themselves to his January transfer requests. That and striker Fernando Torres’ coming out and supporting his manager mean that the winds of trouble have started lamented across the Red half of Merseyside.
While Marseille rode to a 2-0 over rivals AS Monaco in the French Ligue 1 this weekend, Liverpool stumbled to their first defeat of the season in the English Premiership when they were outmaneuvered 3-1 at Reading. Liverpool next play Manchester United in the Premiership next weekend and the talk is that should Liverpool get beaten again, Rafael Benitez could be packing his bags and heading out of Anfield.