It’s been a long wait, hasn’t it Liverpool fans? 29 years since the club last won the league title but this time they are contenders going into the last game of the season.What an atmosphere it will be at Anfield on Sunday, and likely for anyone who’s watching the game with me this weekend.
It’s absolutely fitting that such an extraordinary title race is going to go down to the last day. Two teams – Liverpool and Manchester City – that have been relentlessly excellent this season are together setting new standards in the Premier League.
The gap between them is about the width of a post, the gap between them and their next nearest challengers (anyone remember when Spurs were being spoken of as potential champions?) is about the distance from here to whichever planet Lionel Messi is from.
Liverpool’s chances of a double this season were singlehandedly dismantled by Messi last week. The Reds’ preparation for the Wolves game on Sunday is a nice, easy Champions League semi-final against Messi, sorry, I mean Barcelona.
It will take a miracle of Istanbul proportions for Liverpool to recover the 3-0 deficit from the first leg. One away goal would have made it a very different prospect but somehow Barcelona’s sheet was left as clean as the Japanese team’s dressing room at the World Cup.
The scoreline flattered the Catalans but Liverpool have proved that they’re back as a serious force in Europe. Their Champions League displays have been full of maturity, tactical discipline, and ruthless counter attacking.
That’s not exactly how I would describe the performance against Newcastle last weekend. At 2-2 on 55 minutes, Liverpool looked disjointed and discouraged.
But they have shown magnificent resilience this season and it was evident again on Saturday night as they steadied themselves and refused to let nervousness degenerate into panic.
The winner had more than a little touch of luck about it; certainly more of a touch than there was on Fabinho as he fell to win the free-kick.
Let’s be honest, it was a dive. No question. I was ecstatic that the resulting set piece led to the winner but more has to be done to eradicate diving from the game.
Perpetrators should get a three match ban and (if I was in charge at FIFA) made to wear an apologetic sandwich board for a day in the centre of whichever city or town the opponent is from. I’m sure Fabinho would have a good day out in Newcastle on that basis.
So to Wolves then and the end game. They are probably not the opponents that you would hand-pick for such an occasion: they are a very adventurous side, have some real quality throughout the team and have a great record against the top six this season.
If Liverpool don’t score early, the nervous energy around Anfield will be enough to power the floodlights for the whole of next season. One eye will be on the pitch, the other on the phone for updates on City’s game.
Joyously or despairingly, there are bound to be tears at the end.
But there can only be one winner. Thirty eight games are a sufficient body of evidence. Both Liverpool and Manchester City have a very convincing case to present.
Whatever happens, this Liverpool squad have produced an outstanding campaign and one that they should look back on with great pride irrespective of whether it includes two trophies, one, or none at all.
90 minutes to go in the league; it will surely be agonising, and it might just be glorious.
Craig Wilkie. Football Writer. Football Coach. Football Fan. Follow him on Twitter @ciwilkie