October 21, 2016

Liverpool understudies eye Euro spotlight

Liverpool, United Kingdom: Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen is desperate for another chance to impress against Chelsea on Wednesday as the fight to feature in the Europa League final hots up.

Allen has spent much of the season on the fringes of Jurgen Klopp’s starting line-up, but the Wales international has impressed whenever selected and underlined his credentials with a goal in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Watford.

There are two league matches left against Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion before Liverpool face holders Sevilla in Basel on May 18 and Reds boss Klopp insists he does not yet know his line-up for the European showpiece.

That offers hope to Allen and the rest of Liverpool’s understudies, who may get another opportunity to state their cases when deposed champions Chelsea arrive at Anfield.

“With the final looming we want to use every opportunity we get out there on the pitch to build momentum ahead of that game against Sevilla,” Allen said.

“To be honest any time you step out for this team you are playing to prove you should be involved in the next game, whatever that game is.

“Of course there is an added incentive in some ways when there’s a final coming up.

“My personal mindset is that when I cross that white line my focus is always on performing and helping the team to get the result, regardless of who we’re playing.

“Personally, I don’t struggle to motivate myself.”

Liverpool started badly enough this season to warrant the sacking of Brendan Rodgers as manager, yet they could still match last year’s achievement in finishing sixth.

– Marathon –

To do so, they may have to win their final two games or hope others drop points.

That may not be easy, given that Liverpool are approaching the end of a marathon season, which has already added up to 60 games.

Klopp has therefore had to juggle his resources and select below-strength sides, with Allen one of the unsung stars of their recent run, which has seen Liverpool lose just one of the last seven league games.

Striker Divock Origi and midfielder Jordan Henderson are still missing for Liverpool but could return at West Brom on Sunday.

The determination Chelsea had shown in denying Tottenham victory at Stamford Bridge last week, ending their London rivals’ title challenge, was notably absent in the 3-2 defeat at Sunderland on Saturday.

A disappointing display was capped by a red card for Blues legend John Terry who will now miss the final two games of the season and may well have played his last game for the club.

Terry’s possible departure when his contract expires in the close-season is just one of a number of changes expected when Antonio Conte takes charge after signing off from his duties with Italy in Euro 2016.

So the visit to Anfield gives Chelsea’s long list of underachievers another chance to demonstrate their value.

Nemanja Matic’s refusal to explain why he didn’t celebrate after scoring against Sunderland prompted suggestions the midfielder might also be on his way.

But the Serbia international is confident Chelsea can avoid a repeat of this season’s disappointment when the new campaign starts in August.

“Last season we were champions but this season we were not even close. We will see in the future what we can do,” Matic said.

“This season was not good for us, but I believe in our quality, I believe in myself and I know what I can do. We will see what we can do next year. Every season is a different story.

“Everything can change in a couple of months. We had the winning mentality, we were champions, and then in a couple of months we lost that.

“In a couple of months, everything can be back. We’ll see.”

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