Liverpool visits Blackburn in the Premier League on Saturday aiming to make sure it doesn’t waste its latest morale boost like it did the last.
Liverpool thought it had turned its poor season around in October when it beat defending champion Manchester United to halt a four-match losing streak, but quickly slumped to another two losses.
The club is now coming off a 2-0 win over city rival Everton that helped it overcome the disappointment of Champions League elimination, and knows a loss to a buoyant Blackburn side could derail it yet again.
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“We were very happy after the Everton game because it was a very important match for us,” Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel said. “We won, so it was perfect.
“We’ll see if it changes our season, but it’s given us a boost in confidence.”
Wins over Debrecen and Everton extended the Reds’ unbeaten run to five matches. One more game without defeat would match its longest unbeaten streak of the season.
“After the Debrecen game we were very down because we were knocked out of the Champions League,” Skrtel said. “Now we have won two games in a row, our confidence is increasing and I hope it continues.”
But Liverpool will again be without Spain striker Fernando Torres, who has been out for a month because of a groin injury.
Torres, who has scored 10 goals in 10 Premier League matches this season, trained this week but is not fit enough to return for the first time since a 1-1 Champions League draw at Lyon on Nov. 4.
“He’s doing well but he will not be ready for this game,” Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. “Maybe next week it will be easier.”
Blackburn, though, is on a high after beating Chelsea in a shootout this week to reach the League Cup semifinals.
Victory for Liverpool could lift it back into the Champions League qualifying places for the first time in more than two months. Liverpool is in fifth place with 23 points, two fewer than Arsenal and three fewer than third-place Tottenham.
Arsenal hosts Stoke after a pair of 3-0 losses that left it 13 points behind Premier League leader Chelsea and eliminated from the League Cup.
England forward Theo Walcott will be absent with long-term injury victims Robin van Persie and Kieran Gibbs, but manager Arsene Wenger has defender Bacary Sagna back in his squad following his recovery from an ankle injury.
“We had Sagna out injured but, normally, he will be available,” Wenger said. “As for the other players we had injured, the long-term ones I do not even speak about.”
Chelsea is at Manchester City on Saturday without striker Salomon Kalou after he tore a thigh muscle against Blackburn.
Didier Drogba is in form with 15 goals in 18 matches this season and should be able to compensate for the absence of his Ivory Coast teammate while England defender Ashley Cole has recovered from a hamstring problem and should return.
Also Saturday, Aston Villa hosts Hull, Portsmouth hosts Burnley, West Ham hosts Manchester United, Wigan hosts Birmingham and Wolverhampton hosts Bolton. Third-place Tottenham is at Everton on Sunday, when Sunderland is at Fulham.
League Championship leader Newcastle hosts Watford on Saturday, when second-place West Bromwich Albion is at Derby and third-place Leicester is at local rival Nottingham Forest.