Liverpool fighting on three fronts as Brendan Rodgers aims to give Steven Gerrard a fitting farewell

This week they receive Besiktas and last season’s nemesis Demba Ba in the Europa League

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The Independent Football

Having gone out of the FA Cup a little unluckily at Arsenal on this weekend a year ago, Liverpool were able to lick their wounds and concentrate on the one competition open to them. They duly reeled off nine successive Premier League victories that would have brought a first title in 24 years but for unexpected stumbles just before the finishing line when encountering Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

Coming through Saturday’s fifth-round tie at Selhurst Park in impressive style with a  2-1 victory confirmed that the Palace bogey dating back to the 1990 semi-final has been laid and that spring again offers exciting possibilities. Now, however, Brendan Rodgers’ team are fighting on three fronts and need to prove they have the resilience to contest two cups and challenge for a top-four place.

This week they receive Besiktas and last season’s nemesis Demba Ba in the Europa League, reverting to the Thursday-Sunday routine that has often derailed teams in the past, but with the incentive that this year’s winners qualify for the next Champions League.


“There is no doubt that you’re always playing catch-up,” Rodgers admitted. “It can be tough. But it’s a European competition so it’s a very prestigious tournament. We have a tough game with Besiktas but we’ll be ready for them.”

Steven Gerrard, alas, will not be, although one or both of Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe will be available to add some of the burning pace that was the one thing missing on Saturday. The hope is that an enforced rest following last week’s hamstring strain may even prove beneficial to the Liverpool captain as he gears up for what could be a memorable end to his Anfield career: a finale with a final or two, as the climaxes to the Europa League and FA Cup are in the same week at the end of May.

Daniel Sturridge is returning to full fitness and an additional bonus over the past week has been a reminder of Mario Balotelli’s qualities.

“We want to play as many games as we can,” Rodgers insisted. “It will be tough but when you’re winning games it gives you energy. We had tough games this week but the players have been brilliant and come through it well.”

Palace, meanwhile, in the relegation places at the new year, must concentrate on maintaining their upward trajectory under Alan Pardew, of whom captain Scott Dann said: “He’s instilled lots of confidence and a bit more freedom.”