Liverpool FC: closer than anyone to rewriting the history books
The English quadruple - two domestic cups, the Premier League and the Champions League - is still on for Jürgen Klopp’s side, as greatness is chased.
Liverpool FC are on the brink of history, winning all three domestic competitions topped off with a continental triumph in the Champions League. But the Merseyside club has already reached greatness, even if they fail to give it an extra few layers of silver.
It’s never been done. Some said it was never going to be done. There have been seasons where a team has hinted at doing it, but as soon as it appeared a realistic possibility, one or more of the wheels would fall off. Once again we are at that point, in fact, closer than ever before.
Liverpool chasing down the quadruple
At the time of writing, Liverpool remain in contention to win all four competitions they have taken part in this season. The domestic League Cup - currently pushing Carabao as its sponsor - is already in the bag, following victories over Norwich, Preston, Leicester and Arsenal en route to the Wembley final against Chelsea, where it took extra-time and an extra-ordinary penalty shoot-out to separate the sides. Second-choice goalkeeper (albeit still the most expensive in history) Kepa Arrizabalaga may still be having nightmares.
Next in the rising list of priorities, the FA Cup, where again Klopp and co will step out to the Wembley fanfare against the Blues from Stamford Bridge. When they last did that both were still serious contenders for the league. Now, the former Russian project is battling to hold onto a top four finish. Such is the difference in form, the Reds should go into the game as clear favourites, but we know that the underdog, especially such an expensively assembled one, can also have their day.
Paris awaits for Champions League showdown
So to the ‘big two’. It would take a seismic shock, one that would reverberate through the streets around the Basílica de Sant Pasqual right up to those near number 10 Mathew Street, and across European football if Villarreal were to overturn the two goal deficit from the first leg. And, earth tremors aside, that will see another final in the competition for the England’s most successful club, moving them into double figures. Paris will be their latest continental city to conquer where it will be either their domestic rival of recent years, Manchester City or Real Madrid standing in their way of number seven, six having been lifted in the Spanish capital in 2019.
A final against Pep Guardiola would put the two best teams on the planet (feel free to argue, but you’re wrong) head-to-head in the biggest club game in the world. A footballing dream. One for the purists. One for the ages. One that rarely seems to come to pass given the fickle nature of knockout tournaments.
Then there is the prospect of a repeat of the 1981 European final in Paris against Los Blancos, a defeat that the Spaniards got revenge for in 2018. Again a mouthwatering prospect for fans young and old. So many narratives to dive into, and with Carlo Ancelotti having already surpassed expectations - they were as low as they’ve been for some time around Chamartín this year - nobody would write them off.
For what it’s worth, I, like every bookmaker taking your money, see another all English final, the third in four seasons, again illustrating the continued dominance of the Premier League fortune makers.
If the club from the home of the Beatles does indeed sink the Yellow Submarine on Tuesday evening and thus confirm their place in three cup finals, that in itself is quite incredible. And that consistent winning attitude, careful squad management, as well as some fortune along the way, has not been at the expense of a league title challenge.
Premier League unlikely, but a two-horse race
Reflect back to the start of the Premier League campaign. Almost every commentator, pundit or ex-player-turned-mouthpiece you listened to had The Reds as also-rans to City, United and Chelsea in whatever order. It was as though they’d all forgotten about the surging first half and strong end of the season, the crippling key injuries, and the inexplicable run of losses that were unlikely to happen again to a refocused, squad-deepened side. Klopp, Salah, Henderson, Van Dijk, Alisson and the supporting cast had surely banked more appreciation in recent years to be cast aside in this way.
Instead, the newly-crowned Kings of Europe had thrown more ill-gotten roubles to bring a revitalized Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge. If Tuchel could play to his strengths then…oh! Over at troubled United, and despite grabbing a second place finish the season before, the performances had rarely suggested they were closing in on the heights needed, more fortunes were being spent and an older goat was coming back supposedly to rekindle past glories. Fans and many ‘experts’ believed, ignoring the bigger picture surrounding the squad, talented though it may be, and management. Cristiano for his part, continued putting the ball in the net.
In the end, and clear early into the new year, there were only ever two title contenders, the same two that have been battling it out for half a decade. Klopp has always been playing catch-up, and, along with his behind-the-scenes crew, had to be more shrewd about how he went about building a squad that has, at times like now, reminded older fans of a bastion of invincibility. Yes, he has been backed in the transfer market, but more often than his state-owned, debt-ridden peers, he’s had to identify rough diamonds and polish them up for the world to admire. That takes time.
It’s fair to say that if Liverpool do go on to collect the ‘quadruple’ then discussions will be had about whether this is indeed the greatest side ever. Surely that’s too simplistic. The best teams don’t always win the trophies for a start: sensible fans of Madrid (during Zidane’s treble) and Liverpool (2005) would contest to that. What this current group has achieved already should put them amongst the greats, having performed on four fronts longer than any other English team. But for most, fans and rivals, that won’t count for much if the Anfield trophy cabinet doesn’t get a sizeable boost by the time summer comes around.