Liverpool were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Chelsea after Eden Hazard struck a late wonder winner to give his side a 2-1 win at Anfield. It brought Liverpool’s winning start in all competitions to a halt after six straight wins in the Premier League and the win over Paris Saint Germaine in the Champions League as well.
By the time you read this Liverpool would’ve played their seventh league fixture, away to Chelsea on Saturday. And if Liverpool have made it seven wins on the trot in the league, it would be hard to argue against them being at the very least joint favourites with Manchester City to win the title. Even a draw at Stamford Bridge would mean that Liverpool would at the very least have the joint best start to the league with City, with a Chelsea win putting them above the Anfield side with Manchester City also likely to join them.
City, Chelsea and Liverpool are comfortably the three frontrunners in the first six games of the league, with the latter being the only to have won all of those matches. While City were the overwhelming favourites at the start of the season, Liverpool were backed by many to run them closest. Chelsea seem to have gathered themselves under Maurizio Sarri, and would have the added advantage in the league of not worrying about the Champions League, even if they would still be participating in the Europa League.
As City, Chelsea and Liverpool remain unbeaten, the other half of the so called Top Six, Tottenham Hotspurs, Arsenal and Manchester United have all lost two matches at the time of writing, with the trio separated from the top three by Watford who are fourth after Game Week 6.
Still only six rounds played, but does it look like a three horse race for the title this year then? And with Liverpool easily the best team of the season so far, can they finally maintain it throughout the year and win their first league title for 29 years.
These three decades have seen Liverpool being on the periphery of league title races for the large part. They’ve won domestic cups multiple times, including the FA Cup and the League Cup – currently known as the Carabao Cup. They’ve won European titles as well, with the UEFA Cup win in 2001 – a year that saw them complete the cup treble with FA Cup and League Cup wins as well – and the epic Champions League triumph in 2005.
Liverpool have lost two Champions League finals since that night in Istanbul: the 2007 final against AC Milan, and last year to Real Madrid. And it was last year’s runners-up finish in the premier club competition, where they resoundingly overcame Manchester City in the quarterfinal, that brought Liverpool back to the discussion which the club’s fans have had for three decades: will Liverpool finally win the league this year?
In the Premier League era Liverpool only ever have been a part of two title races. Even though they finished second in 2001/02 as well, but it was largely due to Manchester United fading away at the end after their race with Arsenal was decided at Old Trafford.
The 2008-09 side managed by Rafael Benitez and spearheaded by Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres nearly prevented United from completing a hat-trick of league triumphs falling short by just four points. Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Old Trafford in March had set the race up perfectly for a grand finale, with United eventually edging their old rivals out.
If Liverpool had the league title within sight in 2008-09, they had one had on it in the 2013-14 season under Brendon Rodgers. Four points divided the top three as City beat Liverpool by two points with Chelsea a further two points behind. It was of course the latter whose away win at Anfield in the third last match of the season, coupled with Liverpool’s 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace in the penultimate game that meant Liverpool’s wait for a first league title since 1990 continued despite having the fate in their own hands with three matches to go.
Liverpool’s collapse in the 2013-14 season resulted in one of the most dramatic ends to the season this decade, with only the final day of the 2011-12 season topping the thrill in recent years. However, Liverpool’s continued distance from the league title made the 2013-14 finale more significant.
Jurgen Klopp has now assembled a side that is conquering all before them. After reaching the Champions League final in a season where they were Manchester City’s bogey team Liverpool certainly have a claim to being the best side in England right now.
However, Pep Guardiola’s City are at the back of the greatest Premier League season of all time. Chelsea mean business as well this season after a shocker in the league last year.
With the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino bringing the attacking returns, as Virgil van Dijk and Alisson sure up the defence, Liverpool have never been more fancied at the start of a season for ages. Even so, it’s what happens at the other end of the season that makes all the difference.