No one who has watched Liverpool’s development under Jurgen Klopp can deny the greatness of his team. This side is one of the most complete in the club’s history. They could still finish with a clean sweep of trophies. They could also end up with just the one they already have in the bag.
Liverpool have a chance to seal the second leg of the quadruple when they face Chelsea at Wembley today in the FA Cup final. This is a rematch of February’s EFL Cup final, which ended in an epic penalty shootout when all 11 Liverpool players who were on the pitch at the final whistle scored from the spot. Klopp’s side showed that they know how to get over the line in tight situations.
They need to show the same resilience over the next two weeks. The margins were tight against Chelsea three months ago. Thomas Tuchel’s team had the better chances in the 0-0 draw and Romelu Lukaku had a goal disallowed for the most ludicrously tight VAR decision. Wembley will present a real test.
Manchester City hold a three-point advantage in the title race with two games to go. It is almost inconceivable that Pep Guardiola’s side will relinquish that lead.
Finally, a 63-game campaign comes to a conclusion in Paris in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28. This is the maximum number of fixtures it was possible for Liverpool to be involved in at the beginning of the season. This is almost unprecedented at the top level of the English game. Liverpool did it in 2001 when they won three cups.
History judges teams on trophies. The last 10 months have produced some epic moments for the Kop but if Liverpool enter June with just the EFL Cup as a reward it will be considered a disappointing year. For the team to fully underline their greatness, they need more silverware.
Neither of the Liverpool sides that delivered trebles – in 1984 and 2001 – were anywhere near the best of Anfield’s vintages but they got things done. Some of the finest teams in the game’s past are almost forgotten because they had more near-misses than hits.
Don Revie’s Leeds United are a good example. In an Elland Road golden age that started with promotion to the top flight in 1964, the team won two titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and the Fairs Cup (the predecessor of the Uefa Cup and the Europa League) twice in an 11-season spell. They also finished second in the table five times, lost three FA Cup finals and were runners-up in three European competitions. Leeds routinely approached the business end of the season with high expectations but were unable to produce a truly dominant campaign.
The run of productive but ultimately disappointing years came to an end in 1975 with, appropriately, a 2-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in Paris. Leeds were the better side for much of the game but faded badly in the last 20 minutes. It was almost an allegory for the previous decade.
This was a team who were unable to make the leap to greatness. They are rarely brought up in discussions about the best club sides in history. That is a travesty.
It could be argued that Leeds suffered from the smaller squads of the age and that the English game was much more competitive. Seven clubs won the title in a 10-year period.
Certainly, Klopp’s squad is better equipped for a long, arduous campaign. They are less likely to run out of steam and the German has rotated his personnel with skill. The Premier League is also less competitive than the old first division but that presents a different problem for Liverpool.
There has never been a team like City. If Anfield’s 30-year title drought had not been broken by Klopp two years ago, Guardiola’s men would be homing in on a fifth consecutive league triumph. That is a frightening thought for the entire domestic game.
With Abu Dhabi’s almost unlimited resources, the champions have been built to dominate English football. Not for just the odd year or two but for the foreseeable future. At the Etihad they are trying – and they are succeeding so far – to create an unopposable force. City have the resources, and the knowhow, to eradicate the ebb and flow of success that clubs have traditionally experienced. It is a team that was created with the simple intention of crushing the opposition.
There has never been an entity like City in the English game. If they can manage the eventual replacement of Guardiola in a smooth manner it will be a truly terrifying prospect for everyone outside east Manchester and Abu Dhabi. So far Klopp has put up the most resistance against City.
Chelsea are no slouches, either. Tuchel will rue the defeat in the EFL Cup final and believe that his side can win with a little luck. The London club, even with question marks hanging over them about the future ownership of Stamford Bridge, cannot be underestimated.
Today will be as attritional as February’s meeting. The big advantage for Tuchel is that he can throw almost everything at this one game. If Chelsea get one more point they should confirm their place in the top four – their goal difference is significantly superior to the teams chasing them and they play Watford on the final day. That is not a luxury afforded to Klopp, who still has three more matches which need to be addressed at full throttle.
For all the talk of the quadruple, only four games matter now. They will define whether this Liverpool side joins the pantheon of the club’s legendary winners.
The only currency that gets you into that exalted company is multiple silverware. It has been a fine season but the moment of truth has arrived for Liverpool.