Liverpool legend Dietmar Hamann has warned the club it might be “now or never” to win the Premier League as manager Brendan Rodgers goes into today’s final game against Newcastle claiming referee Lee Mason, rather than his captain Steven Gerrard, has defined this season’s title race.
A packed house will gather at Anfield today hoping for a last-day miracle and that their side can beat Newcastle, while West Ham win at Manchester City. It would make Liverpool champions for the first time since 1990.
The League was in Liverpool’s hands until April 27 when Gerrard slipped against Chelsea to inadvertently set up the opening goal for Demba Ba in a 2-0 defeat.
Despite going so close this time, 2005 Champions League winner Hamann does not think his former club should assume they will be in the running next season as they try to juggle European football with the Premier League.
“It will be much harder next year,” said Hamann. “You can’t take anything for granted in football. You can have one good season and the next year things go wrong.
“You miss key players through injury and find yourself fifth or sixth. There is no guarantee of them being in a position to win the league within the next three, four or five years.
“Next season will be tough as it is their first year back in the Champions League. A lot of players haven’t played there. To play Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday is a different ask. They are equipped to do well in the Champions League but the Premier League will be tough next season. The manager is right to look at four to six new players.
“Playing in the Champions League means more suspensions and injuries. They need a bigger squad but not a complete turnover as they’ve been the second-best team in the League on merit. There are also question-marks about Luis Suarez’s future and that would have a major influence on their team.”
Gerrard has been on the receiving end of cruel chants over the mistake against Chelsea that may have cost him his dream of winning the Premier League. To protect his 33-year-old skipper, Rodgers insisted the defining moment of the title race came on Boxing Day when Mason ruled out a legitimate goal by Raheem Sterling for offside and denied Suarez a penalty in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City.
Rodgers was fined for saying later that Mason should not have officiated the game because he comes from Greater Manchester.
“Steven probably takes the songs as a huge compliment, and he should do,” said Rodgers. “With someone of that greatness and ability, it’s just unfortunate what happened to him. But it could have happened to anyone.
“It would be more unfortunate if the referee’s decision at Manchester City, when I got fined £8,000, might define the season. Sterling was clearly onside and in on goal.
“It’s the only time in my life I’ve been fined. I knew at that time it might be significant. So that might define our season. It won’t be Stevie’s slip.” - Mail on Sunday