Even in a championship that has been steamrollered by the most driven post-2009 Pep Guardiola machine, Premier League leaders Liverpool are pushing the boundaries of normalcy.
And they’re pushing hard.
No team, in the history of Europe’s top five leagues, had left only two points unpicked after 21 games of a season, yet Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have just bettered a record held jointly by two Guardiola teams and another side that featured Cristiano Ronaldo, courtesy a 1-0 win away to Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday.
Make no mistake; Liverpool haven’t waltzed to these heights. Their ascent has been characterized by more slopes than steps, with Klopp facing — and outwitting — challengers who have strewn his team’s path with many a trap.
Yet it’s arguably only after slipping unscathed past Jose Mourinho — not the most formidable opponent these days, but certainly a calculating character who could exploit the tiniest chink — that it feels Klopp and his team could really keep up the run of invincibility, well and truly leaving the chasing pack in the dust. And in the 10 league games between now and the April 4 meeting with Guardiola and his trailing Manchester City team, there aren’t many grounds that Liverpool would find slippery.
Archrivals Manchester United are next, and although there would be a little wariness against the only club to take points off Liverpool this season, the duel would be staged at Anfield — where, in a ridiculously long time, the European champions haven’t lost.
Trips to face brave Wolves and across Stanley Park to green-eyed neighbors Everton might throw up a potential banana peel, but if they avoid slip-ups in those ties — the bottom-half gang of West Ham United (2x), Southampton, Norwich, Watford, and Bournemouth should be ticked off the list without breaking a sweat, while Crystal Palace’s visit on March 21 hardly seems threatening — Liverpool should be sufficiently revved up for the big hurdle at the Etihad; scale that, and Arsenal’s record of 49 unbeaten Premier League games would be equaled, with plenty of time to go clear.
Now, as Klopp would have you believe, the goal isn’t to win every game. And while the German won’t admit either that he’s bent on going unbeaten, Liverpool do look capable of pulling off both, winning at their best and even when slightly off-color. Europe — where they’ve already suffered an ultimately irrelevant loss to Napoli in the bid to retain their crown — may prove a tighter rope to walk as the Uefa Champions League enters its tougher rounds, while Klopp doesn’t appear to have much of an appetite for domestic cups, but Liverpool are almost home and dry in the competition that matters most to them, with a 14-point lead in one hand and an outstanding fixture in the other.
What remains of their procession to maiden Premier League glory isn’t long, and only they could decide how to complete the rest of that journey — striding or stumbling — for they’re peerless, almost beyond anyone’s reach.
NY Frimpong — Daily Mail GH