Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have lived through more than enough near misses in the past 30 years not to take anything for granted this season, but an eight-point lead in the Premier League gives them a golden opportunity to end that long wait.
Liverpool were very close to fulfilling their title dreams in May, but lost out to Manchester City by just one point, despite posting the third-highest points tally in top-flight English football history, with 97. That not withstanding, they quickly worked hard and lifted the Champions League in June and have shot out of the traps with eight straight league wins to take an outstanding lead.
Liverpool’s past three league victories came by a solitary goal, but they have proofed the tenacity and eagerness to get the best finishing at the same time as favor left City, going for their third title in a row, have lost their advantage.
High-flying Leicester’s visit to Anfield on Saturday offered City hope they could cut the five-point gap separating the sides heading into the weekend. Deep into stoppage time, the Foxes seemed set to do the champions a favour with the sides locked at 1-1, until Sadio Mane tumbled in the box and James Milner coolly slotted away a 95th-minute penalty.
“They didn’t look for a second like a team who won so many games that they don’t have the desire anymore to win another one. It looked like they had never won a game before and I love that fact,” said Klopp.
After a day, Manchester City failed to find the same kind of response as Wolves emerged from the Etihad 2-0 victors afterbeating up the hosts’ pressure and hitting relentlessly on the counter-attack.
Manchester City’s defensive problems was clearer without the injured Aymeric Laporte as Wolves missed three glorious first-half chances before finally submitting two Adama Traore goals in the final 10 minutes.
Poor defending also cost Pep Guardiola’s men in a 3-2 loss at newly promoted Norwich last month and the fear for Manchester City is that the margin to Liverpool will continue to grow instead of reducing.
City’s defender Laporte will not resume play until after the New Year and the Guardiola side may have to act quickly in the transfer market in January after failing to fill the void left by former captain Vincent Kompany’s departure at the end of last season.
But two seasons of good performance have thought Guardiola to believe that anything is still possible.
“I know these guys, they can still do it. We are in October and there’s a long way to go,” said Pep Guardiola.
Both sides will still have to clash twice, offering City the chance to break into that gap, but their clash at Anfield next month is more and more looking like a must-win for the champions, but even Guardiola has failed to win in his previous four visits there as City boss and the blue side of Manchester have not won away to Liverpool since 2003.
On five different occasions Liverpool have finished second since they last won a top-flight title in 1989/90. Rarely in that time have they ever had a better chance to end the long wait to be crowned champions of England.