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Liverpool has won three major European trophies during the Premier League era, but a domestic title has thus far eluded them. They came within touching distance of winning the league last season, in 2014 under Brendan Rodgers, and in 2009 when Fernando Torres was in his prime, but it has been 30 years since a title-celebrating bus parade was required on Merseyside.
But in 2019-20, the Premier League appears to be Liverpool’s to lose.
With 12 matches played, Jurgen Klopp’s side are undefeated and eight points clear atop the table. Manchester City, who took the title race to the final day last season, are nine points behind in the rear view mirror.
Not only do Liverpool boast arguably the best attacking trident in Europe, but they have fixed the main problem that has been keeping them from glory: the defense. They undoubtedly have the league’s best fullbacks (who are also two of the league’s best playmakers) and they have the best center back in the world.
Last weekend, Liverpool beat the incumbent champions 3-1 at the Anfield fortress where they are unbeaten in 44 home league games. And it is not the only advantage Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have over Pep Guardiola’s men; Liverpool have already faced all their “Big Six” rivals, plus second-place interloper Leicester. By comparison, City have only met Liverpool and an out-of-sorts Tottenham side thus far.
Frankly, if Liverpool do not win the Premier League this season, it seems that they never will.
But despite their enviable position, it would be naive to suggest the title race is over, especially after Liverpool failed to hold a similar advantage last term. If there is one team in the world who can close a nine-point gap with 26 games remaining, it is Pep’s Manchester City.
So if Liverpool’s lead were to be eroded this season, where would the slips most likely happen?
The obvious answer is during the hectic holiday schedule, where the Premier League annually crams fixtures around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Unlike their competitors, Liverpool are obliged to compete in an extra competition next month: the Club World Cup, which will take place 13 hours, 4,400 miles and three time zones away in Qatar.
Not only have the Reds had to rearrange an away trip to West Ham, but they are scheduled to play in the League Cup against Aston Villa the day before their first Club World Cup match. (None of the traveling players will be involved in the League Cup match, but this fixture will add to the fatigue of a squad that arguably lacks depth.)
Between November 23 and the weekend of January 5, Liverpool will play 13 games in 40 days across five competitions. That averages out to a game every three days. Over a period of nearly a month and a half.
On Boxing Day, Liverpool face a tricky trip to Leicester — who have no European competitions to worry about, and who were unfortunate to leave Anfield without any points in October. That will come just days after the Club World Cup final, and there will be only two days of rest before Wolves come to Anfield. Three days later, the Reds host a resilient Sheffield United, who almost plundered a point at Bramall Lane in September.
These are exactly the kind of taxing games where Liverpool could drop points. Remember: It is exactly within this period of time that a seemingly unbeatable Manchester City suffered three of their four league defeats last season.
If the Reds escape the festive season with their lead intact, there are still plenty of hazards that lay ahead. In the two weeks that follow, they must travel away to Tottenham and then host a Manchester United side who figured out how to shut down their marauding fullbacks in the previous meeting.
Two Merseyside derbies also lay ahead against Everton, while the end-of-season run-in looks particularly treacherous. Liverpool must visit Man City at the start of April, knowing that they have lost their last two league trips to the Etihad (including a 5-0 rollicking in 2017).
If that match doesn’t provide a points swing in City’s favor, then Liverpool’s final three matches of the season may do so. The Reds conclude by visiting Arsenal, hosting Frank Lampard’s Chelsea and visiting a Newcastle side who may need points to avoid relegation.
At some point in this run-in, Liverpool will also have to squeeze in the rearranged trip to West Ham, where they only managed a draw last season. Couple that with another potentially deep Champions League run, and Liverpool will have their work cut out for them when the finish line approaches.
Of course, Klopp’s Reds are brilliant, and they may surprise us all with an “Invincibles” undefeated season. But all signs suggest they will not maintain their furious pace from now until May. Not only do they have excessive fixtures to worry about, but also the looming danger of injury to a squad with limited depth.
Could Liverpool keep going if Virgil van Dijk was out of action for a sustained period? (City have already shown this season how damaging it is to be without your first-choice center back.) Are the deputies for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson good enough? Can the entire first-choice XI stay fit for a season that may feature over 60 games? Title rivals Man City are living in a world of injury woes right now; Liverpool’s may still lay ahead.
League dominance may seem straightforward to the Reds right now, but history tells us there is every reason to believe this title race will go right down to the wire.
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