Home and Away

Red and blue are still the colours, but not in Manchester

Perhaps it won't last long, but with Lukaku, Sturridge and Suarez all firing, Liverpool clubs are top dogs in northwest right now

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 October, 2013, 1:27am

Red and blue have long dominated northwest English soccer. In Manchester, red has burned bright for two decades and more at Old Trafford, while sky blue has shined brighter following a money-fuelled renaissance at the Etihad. But these pigments appear to be fading due to a shift of light to the west. Red and blue have also long covered bedroom walls and terraces in Liverpool, but it seems the decorators have been in and the brush strokes have painted a far prettier vista at Anfield and Goodison Park.

Everton's midweek emphatic demolition of Newcastle (the 3-2 scoreline flattered the visitors) was thanks mostly to rampant striker Romelu Lukaku, who epitomised the new-found power and hunger among the motley talent assembled by Roberto Martinez.

Quite what Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho doesn't get about Lukaku that the Everton manager does is a mystery that swirls beyond Stamford Bridge.

Martinez has picked and mixed an impressive bag of Toffees that rival teams are finding near impossible to chew. He has deployed shrewd acquisitions and homegrown talent in equal measures and the result has been mouth-wateringly sweet.

Not since the delirious days of the 1970s and 1980s when the likes of Gary Lineker, Andy Gray, Kevin Sheedy and Peter Reid were starring has Goodison Park felt and looked, well, so good.

Now it's Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley, Leighton Baines and Gareth Barry playing dazzling football, and Everton fans have renewed hope and ambition following the departure of David Moyes and one of his key charges, Marouane Fellaini, to Old Trafford.

Everton go into today's battle of the blues against Manchester City in fourth place, occupying a Champions League place usually reserved for Manuel Pellegrini and Moyes' men.

Meanwhile, across town at Anfield, bad boy Luis Suarez returned to action last weekend and bagged two goals in an important win at the Stadium of Light (a place where all colour has been replaced by dark foreboding).

The tussle with Sunderland followed the surprise loss the week before at home against Southampton.

Brendan Rodgers' side are back up to second in the table and there is firm reason to believe Liverpool have found a new strike partnership capable of securing the title. For history proves Liverpool are successful when fielding a lethal pairing.

Little wonder many are hailing the new Suarez-Daniel Sturridge double act as one cast in the same mould as the Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush pairing of 1980-87 that netted 224 goals in 242 appearances together.

Others see lively ghosts of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack who played together between 1971-77. This was the archetypical big man-small man routine, with the tall Toshack knocking down for the terrier-like Keegan. The pair scared defences and goalkeepers witless. In 13 appearances, Suarez (9) and Sturridge (7) have scored 16 goals. Combined, the two players are averaging a goal every 71 minutes.

Evidence of their deadly effectiveness was their close co-operation against Sunderland. Sturridge passed to Suarez more than any other Liverpool player, including the two goal assists.

That's why many are hailing this new dynamic duo as the emergence of a new great strike force, potentially up there with Manchester United's Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, and Arsenal's Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.

Of course, fans of both Liverpool clubs know they must dance a merry jig while their respective Mersey neighbourhoods beat out a winning rhythm.

They know the good times are in part due to the peculiar starts to the season at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, and might not last.

But the tide is high and does not look like ebbing, especially for Liverpool, who take on Crystal Palace this weekend, then entertain Newcastle and West Brom.

If Suarez and Sturridge continue and expand their productivity, then the happy thoughts and quiet whispers on the Kop about making a proper claim for the title will gain traction, volume and believability.

What a contrast to the recent gloom and angst over the summer saga of Suarez's imminent departure due to the Uruguayan's deep unhappiness at Liverpool.

And there's the rub. Yes, Suarez has returned from his biting ban with a vengeance and, magician though he maybe in the eyes of club captain Steven Gerrard, his character begs the question: can he be trusted?

Suarez has yet to conjure up the loyalty Liverpool supporters demand and deserve. He made it patently clear he wanted to leave when Arsenal courted him this summer. He only remains because he has a contract, rather than out of a deep sense of belonging to the club.

The irony is that now Suarez is back to his best, a departure, say in the Christmas transfer window, will ensure the pain will be all the more acute. He has three years left on his contract and Liverpool plan to open discussions about a new deal at the end of the season.

Spanish TV station Punto Pelota claimed this week Real Madrid are talking to Suarez's representative and are tabling a £42 million (HK$527 million) offer.

Suarez might be netting goals, but he has yet to nail his colours to the mast.