After all the recent debates about Liverpool’s form this season and where it might put them among the long list of great English football teams, they’ve been sent crashing back down to earth with two defeats that have given Arsenal and Manchester United fans something to smile about.
Make no mistake about it, Jurgen Klopp’s side will still go on and win this Premier League title race very comfortably, but following back-to-back defeats against Watford and Chelsea in the space of a few days they can no longer do it unbeaten, as Arsenal’s 2003/04 side did, or as part of a treble like that 1998/99 Manchester United side.
There are, of course, still a number of records this Liverpool team could break on their way to Premier League glory this season, with most points, earliest title win and biggest gap between 1st and 2nd among those still up for grabs.
However, with no domestic cup competitions to distract them, and with a comfortable enough lead at the top to suggest they could stroll to the title in second gear now, there’s no excuse for this superb side not to cement their greatness by retaining the Champions League.
Liverpool trail 1-0 to Atletico Madrid after another underwhelming recent performance, but given that they came from 3-0 down in the first leg of last season’s semi-final against Barcelona, this shouldn’t be too much for them to overturn at Anfield.
From then on, LFC really are the best team in this competition, with Barca serial under-achievers at this level in recent times and only looking like getting worse, while Real Madrid and Juventus aren’t really what they were either.
At the moment, the big threat looks to be coming from Manchester City and Bayern Munich, but Liverpool have shown in recent times that they can beat both, and they can now focus almost all their energy on doing so again.
If a look through Twitter and elsewhere in recent weeks has taught us anything about when it comes to debating great sides, it is that records, as impressive as they are, don’t seem to win most people over.
There has been a healthy debate about Arsenal’s Invincibles – they only won one trophy, they arguably bottled it in the Champions League that season, and other teams have won the title on more points, with more wins, and scoring more goals.
That isn’t to downplay that achievement, but the fact is it’s harder to really question that incredible treble-winning season from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd. Some will say they got lucky to win the title by just one point, and to score two stoppage time goals against a Bayern Munich side who switched off as they prepared for victory. Good luck telling United fans that – you can get lucky in one competition, but not three in the same season, and the truth is many Gooners would probably swap their Invincibles season for just one European Cup; the Red Devils wouldn’t swap 1999 for anything in the world.
If Liverpool can become the first English club in 40 years to retain this trophy, and only the second in the Champions League era, then that will do a great deal more to secure their status as all-time greats than continuing to steamroller sides in the Premier League when they’re safe in the knowledge that most of these games are going to be fairly meaningless anyway.
Their quest for true greatness starts at Anfield next Wednesday night…