HERE we are again and here they are again.
It’s 2014 all over again. Us on the edge of fulfilling our destiny and them cast in the role of spiteful dream wreckers. There was no need for them to take the title from us and hand it to Manchester City in 2014, and equally now, this is a contest that is all about us and simply not about them.
The parallels are unavoidable. Three games to go then, just five now. Anfield the stage, Man City waiting in the wings, willing us to fail.
Looking back, our greatest folly in 2014 was in treating a must-not-lose game as a must-win game. We were too greedy then. We were in a rush to get the job done, to be crowned champions.
Perhaps a more experienced team and manager (than Brendan Rodgers) would have done two things differently – firstly, the maths, and realised a draw was a perfectly excellent result and secondly, not underestimated the opponent. Chelsea had no skin in the game but it didn’t make them not a very dangerous challenge.
I sympathise with Rodgers. He chose to face only forwards and wanted to channel the momentum of an 11-match winning run. He felt that we should remain fearless, even to the extent of showing a significant opponent a degree of disrespect. Klopp may face a not dissimilar dilemma. Chelsea are strong but deeply flawed, their 6-0 trouncing at the Etihad still fresh in the memory.
We could be bold and wild. We could blow them away. But they could resist us too. They could stay calm, and as in 2014, wait for their moment.
A win would be a fantastic step towards our goal but still with much work to do. A defeat, though, would be catastrophic. We could survive the draw. Yes, we’d then need two slips rather than one from City, but a defeat would mean we’d require them to fail to win in half of their remaining games.
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Yes, of course it’s a must-win game, all our games remain so until there is daylight between us and City. But it is in equal measure a must-not-lose game.
I’m not sure Jürgen Klopp will see this my way. He may have done a few weeks ago. I felt in certain games, maybe Everton away, that he felt we shouldn’t risk turning one grudgingly attained point into zero. There was a sense of a “what we have we hold” mentality. It has helped keep Liverpool unbeaten in 12 and fearing no team because of it.
Against Tottenham at Anfield a fortnight or so ago, Klopp changed tack. He could’ve taken the point on offer. Spurs had equalised and it clearly gave them the belief that they could steal the win. The Liverpool manager had other ideas, though.
He threw Divock Origi into the fray and set four attackers bearing down on Spurs. It was a risky strategy that was ultimately rewarded but not before Spurs had broken on an undermanned Liverpool backline and threatened to score again themselves.
Although Liverpool’s victory that day was scruffy and appeared fortuitous, secured by Alderweireld’s last-minute own goal, it was a product of the attacking intent of a home side that wanted only to win, or die trying.
Enter Chelsea. Klopp will feel that this is the decisive moment and that all must be risked on taking the opportunity. If Liverpool win, they will have four left to play and the very realistic prospect of concluding this league campaign with nine straight victories.
From where we stand, ahead of Sunday’s matches, Manchester City have only around a 20 per cent chance of winning all of their remains six matches. Think about that. In all probability, it can be classed as “extremely likely” that City will drop points in at least one fixture.
Of course this can also be said of Liverpool, but the odds of The Reds winning their last four games currently sits at about 50 per cent, if Liverpool can see off Chelsea. On paper the league title is not in our hands, but in probability terms it most definitely is.
“City WILL drop points,” is not a hopeful statement. It is a very sensible prediction. To this end, the destiny of the prize is for us to decide. Simply win all of our remaining five games and we will be champions.
Sounds easy. It obviously isn’t but it will become a significantly more realistic prospect should we defeat Chelsea.
Let’s not obsess about what Chelsea will do to resist us. I was up nights in that week in May 2014 trying to second guess Jose Mourinho’s team selection. We must look within ourselves and find out how badly we want this.
The team has had moments requiring profound soul searching during the past six fixtures. All of these have been won, but all after moments when it looked like the result might be escaping us.
We have been tested and tested again. On each and every occasion we have found the answers. Let’s make the numbers add up one more time.
Predicted 11: Alisson; Trent, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Kick off: 4.30pm, Sunday
Referee: Michael Oliver
Odds by Redsbet: Liverpool 2-3, Draw 3-1, Chelsea 4-1
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It was telling that Sarri made so many changes on Thursday. The Europa League has gone from their all-in to their each way bet to next year’s Champions League. Hazard and Hudson-Odoi will be familiar and freshman foes and demanding of great care. It’s tempting to say it’s the last great hurdle, but let’s be honest, win this, and they’ll only get higher because like you, i think City’s legs betray them at OT and they drop points. Ok, maybe Huddersfield at home is a gimme…
God, I hope we fucking beat them. Don’t care how. Just win.
Good article but I still don’t agree with the notion that Rodgers had any blame in that game vs Chelsea in 2014.
We were comfortably in control of that game. Only the unfortunate Gerrard incident led to their fluke of a first goal just before half time. Don’t know why people seem bent on rewriting history and blaming Rodgers for that particular loss to Chelsea.
Because fans love to lay the blame on the manager’s door first instead criticizing the players they love.
Mourinho, the world’s quintessential pantomime villain, a man whose feelings of latent inadequacy mean he revels in wrecking what others strive to do. Thank God we never considered hiring him. He was so hell-bent on ruining it for us that day he grew half a beard, purely for show.
Sarri has the same rate of facial growth but if we score first we should be ok and the comparisons will end. We have to hope Hazard doesn’t have a day where he wants to add to the highlights reel. We need to keep it tight, and score first. And come what may, we have to win this one.
Worth remembering, as it seems to get lost, is that Chelsea were still in the title race at this point in 2014. They eventually only finished 2 behind us and 4 behind City. I wonder if the gap had been 15 points or so whether Chelsea would have approached it differently.
As a club and a team we go into this match as a totally different proposition to 2014. Champions League Finalists last season. On brink of semi final this season. Compare to then when we were nowhere in Europe. Irrelevant.
Today. Van Djik. Allison. Robertson. More experienced Henderson. Mane. Klopp. Salah. Ox choosing us over Chelsea. And so on.
If there is one glass half full way of looking at ‘slip’ it is that maybe had we won the league then we would have been a flash in pan success and not have ended up uniting with Klopp as the timings would have been different.
Water under the bridge. We are have to embrace tomorrow, fight to the end and believe. Nothing is guaranteed but if we do that we should win.
Good article Rob, but aren’t we talking different teams, managers and tactics?
In 2013/14 I thought a draw was sufficient, and that it was Rodger’s naivety against an experienced viper.
The slip is irrelevant, knowing we had enough time, before and after, the slip to win or draw the game.
We didn’t have Champions League QF game against Porto coming up next week.
And of course we had Iago Aspas.
Today we have a mature team and manager. We have a better goalkeeper in Alisson, and along with VVD, we are more than capable of defending better than Rogers’ defensive circus he had set up.
Here’s Rodgers thoughts when asked about defensive coaches:
“I think it is just the lack of coaching time that is impacting. Listen, we can’t complain. We are in the big competitions and there is an expectancy on us, which there should be. We are Liverpool. But in terms of a defensive coach, we don’t need it. No. No. No chance. No chance. No.”
Compared to 2013/14 I do think we have to win this game tomorrow to prevent any seeds of doubt creeping in before we go against Porto.
‘Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.’ B. Shankly.
And it still is…So it’s time to move on and beat Chelsea.
Come on you Reds!
How was Rodgers naive that day? We had the game under control until the unfortunate slip.
Mourinho did nothing special. Unless you want to give him credit for planning a fluke goal by Demba Ba.
The game could easily have ended in a draw or win for us if they didn’t get that goal before half time.
By underestimating Mourinho and his infamous tactics. Was that the first time he’s parked a bus?
By not having any solutions before or after the slip. Being in control is not the same as scoring goals. Rodgers approach was about attack with a leaky defense using Gerrard in that position which was never his natural position.
The slip could have happened to anyone or at any time but Jose set up his team to take any kind of opportunity that came their way. It happened to be this slip. It’s not the first time he has done this.
Jose was an experienced poker player against Rodgers who continued to be reeled in even after that game with Crystal Palace.
Luckily their Crystanbul didn’t end up with a 4-3 victory, simply because Palace ran out of time while our defense was chasing shadows.
As I pointed out in my previous comment Rodgers approach to defense continued to show his naivety on the pitch which also mirrored his naive personality off the pitch.
Doesn’t matter to me any more. Klopp has shown today what an experienced manager and team can do against Chelsea at Anfield.
So simplistic to attribute a freak incident of Gerrard slipping as a tactical masterclass by Jose.
Robertson slipped today. That Sarri fella masterminded all of it.
I like all your analysis and stuff but I don’t want to get bogged down with all of that for me THIS IS A MUST WIN GAME SIMPLE thank you and God have mercy on us and lead us to the league title Amen
Don’t see City dropping points.97 for the Reds would be a crazy total with no title.