Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish insists his team will enter Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea with confidence despite a dispiriting 1-0 loss to Fulham in their last game before the Wembley showpiece.
An early own-goal from Martin Skrtel condemned Liverpool to another home defeat in a season which has seen them set records for futility in terms of their league form at Anfield.
With Dalglish opting to rest Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard with Chelsea in mind, it was hardly ideal preparation for Liverpool’s second domestic cup final of the season.
But the Scotsman insisted that the defeat would have no bearing on the outcome on Saturday as his team attempts to add the FA Cup to the League Cup they won earlier this year.
“If we had won this game 4-0 it wouldn’t have made any difference for Saturday,” said Dalglish.
“It won’t affect the Cup Final but it’s disappointing and doesn’t mean to say it makes it right.
“The attitude and desire was not there. We can’t play at that tempo, we have to play quicker than that.
“I have to take part of the blame because I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to get minutes on the pitch and a chance to push their case.
“But the performance and attitude were very poor and that’s not like us.”
One of the few players to emerge with any credit was forward Andy Carroll who improved his chances of starting at Wembley.
“It was good to see Andy back, he had a niggle at the weekend but he’s back and fit and played the 90 minutes without any repercussion so that is good for us,” said Dalglish.
But Carroll’s performance was an isolated positive in a sea of negatives as Dalglish and Liverpool must face up to their worst home league season in history.
They have one home league game remaining, coincidentally against Chelsea on Tuesday, and must win to avoid matching their worst ever home season in terms of league wins – the five they recorded in 1948-49.
Liverpool are also four goals short of matching their previous worst season in terms of home league goals, the 24 they scored in the 1903-04 campaign.
They are in danger of finishing outside the top eight of English football for the first time since 1953-54, a season which ended in relegation.
The result also shored up Everton’s chances of finishing above their Merseyside rival in the Premier League for the first time since 2005.
Everton drew 1-1 with Stoke in the night’s other match, putting David Moyes’ team three points above Liverpool with two rounds remaining.
Everton were denied victory at Britannia Stadium when striker Cameron Jerome scored in the 69th minute for Stoke, cancelling out Peter Crouch’s own goal a minute before halftime – the 1000th goal in the Premier League this season.