Title heartache, Suarez departure and Balotelli arrival - Liverpool's 2014 in pictures

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Liverpool had quite an eventful 2014 - here's a look back at their year in pictures.

Liverpool started 2014 with a bang, demolishing Merseyside rivals Everton 4-0 in January. Two goals from Daniel Sturridge stole the headlines, whilst other strikes from Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez led to a humiliating defeat over their local counterparts.

Manager Brendan Rodgers was delighted after the game, saying;  "It was a brilliant team performance. There was good defensive organisation. We were outstanding on the counter attack and we controlled our spaces really well.

"We were clinical in front of goal. We scored four and could have had arguably two or three more. It was a brilliant win for us and I'm delighted for everyone. It's obviously really special because of the nature of the game — it was two teams that have been doing outstandingly well and doing the city proud throughout the course of the season."

Another demolition was just around the corner, and this time it was Arsenal on the receiving end of Liverpool's fearsome attack. Two goals each for Martin Skrtel and goals for Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge had the Reds 4-0 up inside 20 minutes, with Sterling adding a fifth in the second half - which underlined Liverpool's position as title challengers.

"Overall, the players were tactically brilliant and you saw their appetite and hunger for the game. That was important for us," Rodgers said after the game. "We were brilliant today, a wonderful performance in such a prestigious game between the two teams. We do a lot of work on our pressing. I always feel if we press well, we can pass well.

"To play like that, not just the result, but the performance level was absolutely out of this world. I'm very pleased and it's another marker for us that we're getting better and improving all the time," he added.

That result sparked a stunning run of wins, with few more important to the fans than the 3-0 hammering they gave out to Manchester United at Old Trafford.

With United struggling under David Moyes, Liverpool took full advantage, with Gerrard scoring two penalties - missing one as well - before Suarez added the gloss with a third.

When it comes to Liverpool wins at Old Trafford or top moments of 2014, this one will rank very high on the list for Reds fans.

Liverpool's title challenge was gaining ground, and they were made favourites for the crown when they beat Manchester City at home.

Early goals from Sterling and Skrtel had fans dreaming of another thrashing like the Arsenal game, but City hit back in the second half through David Silva and a Glen Johnson own goal.

It was set up for someone to be a hero, and whilst it's usually Steven Gerrard, this time it was Philippe Coutinho who scored the winner, placing the ball past the despairing dive of Joe Hart with just 12 minutes to play.

Yet the heartache was just about to begin. Tasked with beating Jose Mourinho's Chelsea to virtually secure the title, Liverpool and Gerrard encountered one of the most infamous moments of the season.

Gerrard miscontrolled the ball in his own half, slipped and allowed Demba Ba to race through and put Chelsea 1-0 ahead at Anfield.

A late second from Willian handed Liverpool their first league defeat of 2014, and blew the title race wide open once again.

Just a week later, Liverpool's title hopes effectively faded and died in one night - and still nobody's quite sure how it happened.

Joe Allen, a Damien Delaney own goal and a Luis Suarez goal put Liverpool 3-0 up at Crystal Palace. With 11 minutes to play, Liverpool were three points clear of Manchester City and knew a final day win over Newcastle would seal their first Premier League title.

Yet quickfire goals from Delaney and Dwight Gayle set up a tense finale, where Gayle made it 3-3 with just two minute left on the clock. Liverpool left the field dejected and downbeat, whilst Luis Suarez was reduced to tears at the final whistle as the reality set in - Manchester City would win the title.

 

The blows kept coming for Rodgers, as shortly after the World Cup, star striker Luis Suarez left Anfield for Barcelona, signing for the Catalan giants in a deal worth around £70m.

"It's been a dream to play for Barca for many years. When I knew it was possible to come here, it was what I wanted, to complete a dream that I have had since I was a boy. I never thought this moment would arrive," said Suarez at his presentation at the Camp Nou.

The media had a field day when Liverpool announced his replacement; Mario Balotelli. The controversial former Manchester City striker had been out of the limelight with AC Milan, but completed a £16 move to Anfield as Rodgers tried to replace Suarez.

"I'm very happy. We've been talking about coming here and now I'm happy to be here," said Balotelli upon his arrival back in the Premier League. "Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England and the football is very good here. It's a great team with young players, and that's why I came here."

 

The 2014/15 season really hasn't gone to plan for Rodgers, though. The club's return to Champions League ended in disaster; a narrow win over Ludogorets was followed by defeat in Basel, before Real Madrid swept the Reds aside in consecutive games.

An embarrassing draw at minnows Ludogorets meant Liverpool had to beat Basel to go through, but could only muster a 1-1 draw at Anfield, resigning Rodgers' men to Europa League football for the rest of the season.

2014 is ending on a low for the Reds, which is disappointing after it started so well. The most recent nightmare for Rodgers was the 3-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, where goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie handed Louis van Gaal's men all three points.

Liverpool have to improve heading into 2015, and Rodgers will be hoping that his summer signings finally gel after a slow start to life in Merseyside.

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