Thursday’s game at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City will decide Liverpool’s title chances. There is no doubt that it is the most important game for the Reds in the Premier League season.
The Reds go into the game seven points up on City as the new year begins. A win and they are 10 points up leaving the defending champions in third place, lose and City moves up to second just four points from first while Tottenham Hotspur remain six points out.
— Dipesh Shah (@mrdipeshashah) January 1, 2019
After a perfect six-for-six December and an unbeaten Premier League campaign so far, a loss to City and that means the Reds have to be perfect the rest of the season. A loss and all the doubts return that the Reds can finally end their 29-year league title drought.
Reds Fans can Hope
In the last 10 years every time a team lead the Premier League at the New Year, only twice did the team fail to lift the championship trophy. It was the Reds both times in 2009 and 2014. So why should the Reds fans hope this year is different?
For one reason both of those teams did not have the kind of lead that the Reds enjoy now. In 2009 their lead was just four points and in 2014 their lead was just two points before both teams faltered and ended up in second place in May. Consequently their deficit in May ended up being four points in 2009 and two points in 2014. Had they had as big a lead as they do now the Reds would have already lifted the Premier League trophy twice.
It’s the Defense stupid
Another reason Reds fans can hope is the great work manager Jurgen Klopp has done in shoring the back-line. So far at this point of the season the Reds have only conceded 8 goals in league play, half as many as Chelsea and Manchester City who follow them in second place with 16.
Compare that to 2009 when the Reds conceded 27 goals or 2014 when they conceded 50 goals. Barring a catastrophic change in play the Reds could conceivably fall way short of those totals by the time the season is over. With the kind of scoring the Reds can produce it is likely their defense that will carry them to a title.
Beat the Minnows, Win a Title
Being an unbeaten team the Reds have not struggled against top competition going 2-0-3 against the teams in the top 5, scoring nine goals while conceding just four. It’s when they have faced the bottom dwellers that Liverpool has been the strongest.
In 2009 the Reds lost just twice in the league but one loss was to regulated Middlesbrough. They also drew games against Hull and Stoke, teams way behind the top five that year. In 2014 the Reds two-point loss of the title likely came down to a loss to Hull and a draw with West Bromwich Albion, both teams that were close to regulation that season.
This year Liverpool have dominated lesser competition against the bottom five of the table. So far the Reds have won five of five, scoring 13 goals while conceding just two. If the Reds want to continue on their quest for a title then they must continue to dominate the drags of the league.
Just Win Baby
To leave no doubt, a win against City at the Etihad means the Reds will be the closest they have ever been to winning the league in 29 years. If they want to avoid the same mistakes of 2009 and 2014 then they just have to win.