Thomas Woods reflects on another week of English Premier League action and offers his thoughts on the biggest talking points.
Liverpool’s Champions League hopes rest on Sturridge
Liverpool have gone from goal kings to goal shy in the space of a season. One reason is the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona but another factor has been the absence of Daniel Sturridge through injury for the past five months.
That’s 52 goals from 2013/14 missing from the first XI.
However, with Sturridge back, Brendan Rodgers’s side have an added dimension. It showed on Saturday when Sturridge came on in the second half against West Ham and the whole team seemed to come alive.
Raheem Sterling has done a fine job up front on his own, but with Sturridge leading the line Sterling can drop back into a supporting role in which he is far more dangerous. Rickie Lambert can become an impact substitute and Mario Balotelli … well who knows if he will start a game for Liverpool again.
Despite several woeful performances this season, Liverpool have a run of five victories in six league games and are only four points off a Champions League spot.
They have scored only 33 goals in 23 games, however, and that is the issue Sturridge should address – or Liverpool will miss the top four.
The next four games are key – Everton away, Tottenham at home, Southampton away and Manchester City at home.
Ivory Coast revival is bad news for Manchester City
The champions haven’t won a game since Yaya Toure has been in Equatorial Guinea for the African Cup of Nations with his national team and they haven’t had the chance to see Wilfried Bony in action as he signed from Swansea and then joined up with the Ivory Coast.
The Ivorians, favourites to win the Cup of Nations, were awful at the start of the tournament and it looked like Toure and Bony would be returning home early, perhaps even in time for last Saturday’s game with Chelsea.
But something has clicked, Bony’s goals have put his country into the semi-finals and City could now be without the duo for the home game against Hull this coming Saturday.
A midweek trip to Stoke on February 11 will probably be too soon for Toure and Bony if they make it to the African final, on Sunday.
If City cannot beat struggling Hull at home then they probably do not deserve to be champions, but the Stoke match will worry them.
Stoke demolished Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium this season and City would love the physical presence of Toure and Bony for that match.
Looks like the blue side of Manchester will be DR Congo fans for Wednesday’s semi-final.
A very bad team is going to stay up
The fight to avoid relegation is tight. Three points separate the bottom four and Crystal Palace, in 13th place, are only four points from the drop zone.
Several teams are putting in a fine case to be relegated and if the Premier League decided to send five teams down this season, it would be fair enough.
Aston Villa haven’t won in eight games, haven’t scored in 600 minutes of football and have only 11 goals this season.
Burnley took 11 matches this season before they won a game.
Hull have gone goalless in seven of their past nine matches.
QPR have lost all of their away games this season and are on track to set a record for the fewest points on the road.
Yet none of these teams are even bottom of the league. That honour goes to Leicester who have been there since a run of six successive defeats started in November.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE