THERE is no better fixture to help transform the mood. No better stage on which to show your true colours.
The 217th Merseyside derby at Anfield tonight provides Liverpool with the opportunity to banish the frustration of recent weeks.
Rather than kick on after winning the Carling Cup, Kenny Dalglish’s side have regressed. Defeats to Arsenal and Sunderland have left hopes of Champions League qualification in tatters.
A season which promised so much is now in the balance. Liverpool are wounded and an in-form Everton can smell blood.
With an FA Cup quarter-final with Stoke City coming up on Sunday, Dalglish is under no illusions about the importance of regaining momentum.
Registering a first home league win of 2012 against their neighbours would be the perfect tonic at the start of a pivotal week.
“For us it’s a massive game,” Dalglish admitted.
“It’s a great game to play in and there will be a fantastic atmosphere. Anybody involved in football knows derby matches are special.
“We know how big it is and how much enjoyment the people get from winning it.
“If you win you get to enjoy it and you get the bragging rights for the city. But both teams come straight out of it into FA Cup sixth round ties at the weekend.
“There’s not much time to sit back and rest on your laurels and neither would you want to. But I’m sure everyone would get a fair bit of enjoyment from a positive result.
“Everyone has to take responsibility and everyone needs to stand up and be counted. Let’s stand together and see what we can do.”
Saturday’s setback at the Stadium of Light means for the first time since 2003 Liverpool have suffered three successive league defeats.
Dalglish, who has never lost four in a row as Reds boss, insists there is no cause for alarm and says morale hasn’t been dented by the recent lean spell.
“It’s certainly not a record you expect from Liverpool,” he said.
“We don’t want to get into the habit of losing games, but in between the losses we won the Carling Cup.
“We’ve never gloated when we’ve won so we won’t hang ourselves when we’ve lost. No-one is feeling sorry for themselves.
“Both against Arsenal and Sunderland we deserved more than what we got. They were different performances but we were playing different teams in different conditions. For all the attributes Sunderland had we more than matched them. We had 56% possession and they had one shot on target which they made the most of.
“They got a bit of luck with their goal and if you are going to win games you always need a bit of good fortune at some stage.
“We wanted to progress this season and we have progressed. We’ve also got a stronger squad this year than we had last year, but we’ve got to put points on the board.
“We just need to keep believing in ourselves and keep pushing forward.”
by James Pearce, Liverpool Echo