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The breadth of Liverpool’s domain this season officially includes Manchester United, and 18 of the other 19 Premier League clubs. The lone holdout is West Ham, whom the Reds haven’t played yet.
If they beat them in 10 days, they’ll become the fourth PL side ever to beat all the other clubs in the same season. And they’ll have done so by January 29.
They continued the best start in the history of Europe’s top five leagues Sunday, winning 21 of their first 22 league matches and collecting 64 of a possible 66 points. It’s become commonplace to gloss Liverpool as champions-elect, to assume as fact they’re going to win the top flight for the first time since before there was a Premier League.
That in itself is a challenge. This is Anfield, as the sign hanging in the players’ tunnel reads, where the mighty have fallen short of the title in 2009, in 2014, and even last season, when even a 97-point campaign wasn’t enough to unseat Manchester City.
Those demons will be trotting out their own XI against Liverpool every week until the trophy is clinched. But that doesn’t seem to matter to these Reds, who operate with boundlessly enthusiastic barbarism reflective of manager Jurgen Klopp.
He’s struck the perfect balance of enjoyment and erudition, painstaking in his efforts to stake pain on other teams. Man to man, you could make a convincing case plenty of Liverpool’s regulars don’t quite stack up to the great teams of the Premier League era. But this is a complete squad, and collectively it’s nearly impossible to beat.
Take Sunday, when the Red Devils needed some negative-ish football alchemy to even give themselves a small chance. They’re the only side to clip a point off Liverpool this season, and in both games they more survived the storm than stood confidently in it.
The refrain is morphing into Liverpool only being able to beat itself. Perhaps that’s true, just not in the way we think. Defensive lapses don’t appear to be in this squad’s DNA, and even if they are, the chances for them to rear their ugly head are scarce under Klopp’s heavy metal tactics.
This is more about the Reds being too good for themselves. They can get one idea ahead of each other and sputter chances. Sadio Mané had a brilliant flick on Sunday, one that Roberto Firmino didn’t expect whatsoever, while Alisson’s audacious ball in stoppage time would’ve been wasted by a lesser man than Mohamed Salah.
Fine by them. That means there’s still something to work on. You’ll get pushback from fans who’ve hated Liverpool forever to suggest this team is eminently likable that way, but it’s true. There’s a healthy streak of perfectionism in these personalities. As our Doug McIntyre put it, they’re both the “darlings and standard bearers”, wowing you as they put three or four past you.
If they continue to do so, there are records to fall. The earliest any Premier League team has clinched the title is with five games remaining. The earliest date is April 14. The most points for a title winner is City’s 100 from two seasons ago. The most consecutive matches unbeaten is Arsenal’s 49. The biggest margin of victory is 19 points. (Liverpool leads City by 16, with a game in hand.)
All of that is in Liverpool’s sights, along with some significant league fixtures. Wolves won’t be a pushover on Thursday. There’s still a trip to the Etihad and a Merseyside derby at Everton. Plus a home date with Chelsea, principle architect of Liverpool’s painful 2014 collapse, which could offer one sumptuous guard of honor before the match.
That’s a dangerous proposition. Not for Liverpool, for everyone else. It’s hard to motivate yourself when you’ve been so demonstrably superior.
Doesn’t seem like that’ll be a problem for the Reds. Another battle won. Add it to the list.
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