In a recent blog, I touched upon how all roads were leading to Liverpool’s home fixture against Manchester City. I also noted that it could end up being merely part one of ‘the biggest game of the season’, with a second instalment coming with the arrival of Chelsea to Anfield.
Well, after the thrilling encounter between the Reds and City as well as Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Swansea, it looks like that’s exactly what we are going to get.
But while the win on Sunday will have most Liverpool fans seriously believing that winning the title is more than just an ideal scenario now, I think Steven Gerrard was spot-on when he said there are in fact four big tests still to come.
Of course, huge match #2 against Chelsea in two weeks is a given. Not only is it a head-to-head fixture with another title rival, but it’ll be unlike any other home game in the league this season for ‘Pool.
Yes, five of the six sides who sit beneath Brendan Rodgers’ side in the top 7 have arrived in Merseyside and been defeated by Liverpool. But they each stuck to the brand of football that got them into the top 7 in the first place.
It was respectable of them to do so, but it made them easy prey for Liverpool’s blitzkrieg-like attacks from the get-go.
Of course, Jose Mourinho is not that stubborn. He will set Chelsea up specifically to handle Liverpool’s attacking prowess – to a man.
Not only that, but there were signs of Liverpool’s weaknesses in the way they were pegged back to 2-2. Degrees of nervousness and complacency that have come into a few LFC wins this season and forced them to really dig deep to hang onto all three points – or in the weekend’s case, snatch a dramatic winner just like Phillipe Coutinho did.
I’d imagine that won’t be a problem in the Chelsea game itself – of course it’s winnable with Liverpool’s home game the way it is, but I reckon the scoreline will remain tight.
However, their other three remaining games – which all seem far more straightforward – can easily prove problematic at this stage, with the pressure increasing on a weekly basis.
I see Newcastle as the biggest possible banana peel. At home to a side who are all over the place at the moment, who are stuck in harmless mid-table, you wouldn’t envision anything other than a comfortable Reds win.
But on the final day of the season, during which surely at least one of Chelsea or City will remain in the hunt, teams just cannot make assumptions about games like that. You know what they say about assumptions.
Norwich away is up next at the weekend, and even the team who Liverpool have enjoyed playing the most in recent years cannot be taken for granted. Mostly because they are in a desperate situation at present and need a win at any cost.
There’s a risk of Gerrard and co failing to take that game seriously enough, when it comes straight after the euphoria of the City win and immediately before the Chelsea test.
The penultimate game is against Crystal Palace, who should at that stage be enjoying the feeling of guaranteed safety. But again, assume nothing about that if that’s the case. Their confidence is high and their form is good – and playing spoiler to a title dream will always appeal to a side not in the hunt.
It feels like just that, too: a dream which may well become an amazing reality for everyone with some sort of association to the club, including myself. After all these years, especially the failure to secure European football for this season. But then, it's always darkest before dawn.
But to ensure it happens, the team should approach all remaining games as if they’re playing Chelsea four times.
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