In this week's Talking Reds, Harry Hugo outlines why the loss at Hull shouldn't spoil anyone's Christmas party...
It's December again: a time for generosity, joy and unforgivable amounts of mulled wine. But away from the full stomachs, eager children and torn wrapping paper, the Premier League sees a fixture list as crowded as a family living room on a chilly Christmas morning when everyone circles the over-decorated tree. And, like Christmas, this has been long in the planning.
The populous event calendar isn't going to be easy. There are no gift-wrapped games in the Premier League, none given to you on a plate with warm, spiced stuffing and dressed with cranberry sauce. But with this, there aren't any games paired with terrible cracker jokes and your Mum telling you to 'eat your sprouts'. In the same way as it is when you have to chow down on a pile of Brussels' finest, it's going to be a test for Rodgers' men to assemble themselves every few days with a readied mentality.
Despite the blip (and I'm sure that's all it was) against Hull at the start of this festive month, Liverpool need to concentrate on securing as many points as they can in a further congested six-fixture month.
If we look at the fixtures themselves, Norwich, Cardiff and West Ham all look very winnable with the goal scoring credentials that we boast. It has also been shown that Manchester City are beatable (although we do play them at their imperishable fortress), Villas-Boas' Tottenham are vulnerable and Mourinho's Chelsea are certainly not the same side we saw in the early part of this millennium. A few seasons ago I would have been writing those games off as games we'd be good to get a point in, now I'd be disappointed with anything less.
The loss of Sturridge is certainly dispiriting and the consequences will have to be limited through other players pulling their weight in his absence; however, we must consciously accept, as fans, that players do get injured at points in a season and it's at these points that the squad needs to stand up and be counted. Admittedly, knocks to other key players have not aided the charge in recent weeks. However, this run of six fixtures should act as a momentum catalyst that catapults Liverpool into the New Year with optimism for the season finale.
Squad depth will undoubtedly be called into question over the next few days and it shouldn't be too much of a problem after a year of bolstering in the transfer market. The expectations still have to be top four and with the current crop of players and the teams around us struggling, it's not out of reach. This congested period should be looked upon as an opportunity to get one-up on some of our closest rivals and push on to solidify our claim. On my Christmas list this year you'll find 'Liverpool to be in a strong position come January' prominently figured at the top of the creased page, but this can't just be a wish, it needs to be a reality. Rodgers needs to show his assured nature, commanding confidence and shower his players with the same ethos. I'm getting excited just thinking about the possibility, as if I want to open one present on Christmas Eve to get the sense of what's to behold the next morning. That feeling of being prematurely overexcited isn't something new to me as a Liverpool fan.
The merry mayhem of December didn't start too well; a poor performance and a result that mirrored it, but the only way is up from here. With every successful Christmas haul comes at least one disappointing gift, so let's not have the Hull loss ruin our tirade on top four and, more importantly, our Christmas party.