It’s been a difficult season to judge at Anfield, with a League Cup victory and FA Cup final place to go alongside a very average Premier League season.
The truth of the matter is that, after the Reds knew a top four finish wasn’t on the cards, life in the English top flight became irrelevant.
Now, nobody at Anfield would be willing to admit that fact, but after beating Cardiff City at Wembley at the end of February, a return to Europe was assured. It also meant silverware was on its way to Merseyside for the first time since 2006, when a Steven Gerrard inspired Reds beat West Ham United on penalties in the FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.
Six years on and the club have the chance to repeat their famous cup double of 2001, facing Chelsea at the home of English football on May 5th.
One player who won’t be facing the Blues next weekend is Charlie Adam, who today has been ruled out for the rest of the season by manager Kenny Dalglish.
"There is no operation needed but he won't play this season," said the boss during his press conference ahead of the weekend clash against Norwich.
"And I would think if they had any designs on having him in the Olympics he wouldn't be fit for that either."
The Scottish international, who signed from Blackpool in the summer transfer window, hasn’t featured for the club since the 3-2 defeat against QPR last month.
Since then, the club have lost three games in the league – against Wigan, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion – drawn against Aston Villa and beaten Blackburn Rovers.
They also won the crucial Merseyside derby against Everton in the semi-final on April 14th, with a midfield four that included Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.
Since Adam’s injury, those four have only played together one other time (in the 2-1 defeat against Wigan), which will be the biggest concern for all Liverpool fans as they move towards the final. This would be the expected starting four against the Blues.
Dalglish also confirmed in his press conference that Gerrard will return for the trip to Carrow Road, a major boost given that he missed out against the Baggies last week.
The general consensus is that the club captain is key to Liverpool having any chance against Chelsea. The same can’t be said of Adam however, who has struggled to make the same impact at Anfield as he did at Bloomfield Road last season.
Featuring 28 times, Adam has scored just twice, and one of those goals came from the penalty spot.
There is no doubt that Adam will grow in stature over time at Liverpool, but currently, and for whatever reason, he just hasn’t managed to reach top form.
And his absence at the end of the season will give other players a chance to make their mark leading towards the cup final and next season.
With only one game left until the final, the likes of Henderson and Spearing will be keen to make a statement against the Canaries and guarantee their starting spot, whilst Jonjo Shelvey, Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy will all be hoping to force their way into the reckoning for a start in the capital next Saturday.
With Spearing on good form and Gerrard the captain fantastic, it’s Shelvey who is least likely to get a start of the aforementioned three, but could be key when it comes to the crunch against Roberto Di Matteo’s side.
After impressing on loan away from the club, his return meant long spells on the substitute’s bench, but recently the former Charlton Athletic starlet has shown glimpses of the skills which made people believe he could be a future star when he was with the Addicks.
The youngster has vast potential, and the ability to cut open a tiring defence if given the opportunity. And, whilst it’s unlikely that he’ll be starting on the big day, his influence could be greater than even he would have imagined now Adam is on the treatment table.
That is how he's been utilised most by the manager thus far, and how he can expect to be for a few more seasons yet if he's not given the opportunity to leave on a short-term basis once again.
With Lucas Leiva set to return next season, opportunities in the centre of midfield will be very hard to come by. And, if Shelvey stands any chance of making a position his own, he will have to capitalise on Adam's misfortune over the coming weeks if Dalglish turns his way.
And, if that comes in the Cup final, then expect Shelvey to rise to the occasion for his club.
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