Six teams completed last weekend's FA Cup quarter-finals, and all played in midweek. Everton, Sunderland, Liverpool and Chelsea lost, the latter two surrendering leads in the last 15 minutes, while Stoke and Leicester both conceded last-minute equalisers. The FA Cup may not have the lustre it once had, but the physical and emotional intensity of a quarter-final is not easily shrugged off.
Regarding Liverpool's unexpected capitulation to QPR on Wednesday, there were individual and tactical errors – but also fatigue. Rangers' match-winner Jamie Mackie said: "They looked tired. They've played a lot of football and [when QPR scored their first on 77 minutes] I thought 'we can have a right go here'. They've not had great results away from home and they were tiring."
Manager Kenny Dalglish said he had "no explanation" for the loss, insisting it was not a lack of concentration. How else, though, to interpret Jose Enrique's hapless attempt to clear Luke Young's header which led to Mackie's goal? The other goals were also poor defensively with Shaun Derry beating both Jamie Carragher and Jordan Henderson in the air for the first, and the cross for Djibril Cissé's unchallenged header being allowed too easily.
But for 75 minutes Liverpool had been far superior; their passing and approach play in patches was very good. "We were creative, thoughtful, professional," said Dalglish. It was the finishing, as has been so often the case this term, that let his side down.
The club's top league goalscorers this season are Craig Bellamy and Luis Suarez with six apiece which is nowhere near enough for a team with Liverpool's pretensions. There is no doubting injured Lucas Leiva has been missed, but the Brazilian would not have added many goals.
Defeat all but ends Liverpool's prospects of reaching the Champions League and with a Europa League place secured there seems no reason not to plan ahead and see if any of the club's young players are ready to follow Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing into the team – as well as giving that pair a run.
The likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Nathan Ecclestone and Jon Flanagan have made five league appearances between them this season. Dalglish should now to experiment.Reuse content