Carragher has top-four doubts

The veteran centre-back, 34 later this month, has had to watch

many of the struggles from the bench.

But he experienced one for himself having been given his first

Premier League start since October 22 in Saturday’s goalless draw

with Stoke.

The Reds may be unbeaten in 11 matches at home but they have

dropped 14 points and frustration against the Potters meant they

lose more ground on fourth-placed Chelsea.

“It wasn’t the result that we wanted but Stoke are a tough nut

to crack and they have proved that a lot of times this season,”

said Carragher.

“They have got a very strong back four and unfortunately we

couldn’t break them down.

“It’s been a problem a few times at Anfield this season.

“We need to sort that out before the end of the season if we

want to get to where want to be, which is obviously the top

four.”

Winning their last two matches in cup competitions, including

victory at Manchester City in midweek, coupled with captain Steven

Gerrard signing a contract extension meant the team went into

Saturday’s game full of confidence.

However, that gradually drained out of them over the course of

90 frustrating minutes in which Liverpool did not really create a

decent chance until Dirk Kuyt missed two close-range headers in

quick succession in the final 10 minutes.

There was little else in the way of action as the hosts

struggled to get to grips with a 3-4-2-1 formation and Stoke

gratefully welcomed the confusion and misunderstanding it brought,

defending resolutely.

Andy Carroll felt he should have had a penalty after coming on

as a 58th-minute substitute when he was felled in the box, but

Liverpool were clutching at straws by that point.

“We had a good result a couple of days ago and we wanted to

build on that,” added Carragher.

“It is a bit of a comedown from Wednesday (against City) but we

have had that plenty of times this season.

“People have been disappointed with some results but then we

have got a result that people don’t expect.

“We are still up there, very close to the top four.”

With City to visit Anfield for the second leg of the Carling Cup

semi-final trailing 1-0 and Manchester United arriving for an FA

Cup fourth round tie in the next fortnight Liverpool’s home form

will come under more scrutiny.

But Carragher believes they can rise to the occasion against the

league’s top two sides.

“A draw at home against City would be okay – we wouldn’t have a

problem with that and we would take that now,” he said.

“You wouldn’t want a draw against United, as you wouldn’t want

to be going to Old Trafford for a replay.

“I don’t think anyone is looking at those games from that point

of view.

“Maybe when you play sides who will come on the front foot, it

makes things a bit easier.

“Teams have come here this season and made it difficult but you

would expect that City and United will come and try to win the game

– that may make it easier for us.”