Comparisons to the 2013/14 Premier League season have been drawn as Liverpool face Chelsea this weekend. All this whilst locked in another title race, an astonishing coincidence, but comparisons should stop there.
Scars that date back four years are still felt fresh for most Liverpool fans. There are few incidents – purely football related – that have been quite so devastating to a fanbase as what happened on April 27, 2014.
The prodigal son on the cusp of delivering the holy grail back to its rightful home during his twilight. Added to the melting pot and dramatic face-off against the old enemy in Jose’s Chelsea.
It could have been one of the greatest days in the clubs recent history but instead, it turned to tragedy in the most dramatic form possible. Clearly, opposition fans won’t let us forget about it anytime soon.
Thankfully the chances of lightning striking twice are unlikely.Embed from Getty Images
Attack mightier than the defence
During Liverpool’s last credible title challenge, their ‘SAS’ attack of Sturridge and Suarez was simply unplayable.
Combined with an emerging Raheem Sterling and contributions from the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Anfield had a world-class attack worthy of the title.Embed from Getty Images
Those with selective memories however may have forgotten some diabolical defensive performances that year. This is where Jürgen’s men differ.
Liverpool conceded an average of 1.32 goals per game during the 13/14 campaign – whereas the current side are averaging 0.61. That puts this season’s defence with the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this campaign. Brendan’s side were ranked in 8th place during 2013/14.
A change in personnel
To take the situation literally, should our deep-lying playmaker lose possession as the last man on Sunday, can you really imagine Virgil van Dijk not hunting down the opposition like a man possessed?
Unfortunately Liverpool’s last title challenge didn’t have a demi-god sat at the heart of the defence capable of feats like that.Embed from Getty Images
Many won’t have been able to watch back Demba Ba slotting the ball past Simon Mignolet, but those that do may see that the Senegalese international’s finish was not perfect by any means.
A better goalkeeper may well have saved it. In fact, Alisson Becker may well have saved it. The score draw at Anfield earlier this season immediately comes to mind.
The Brazilian shot-stopper denied golden boy Eden Hazard in virtually identical circumstances. There’ll be no easy goals given away at Anfield this time around that’s for sure.
Mourinho vs Sarri
Despite Mourinho’s sinister desire to stifle Suarez & Co. on that fateful day, they only needed one opportunity to sink Liverpool fans the world over.
Chelsea were sat in second before the match. Having played a game more than Liverpool and Manchester City, Jose Mourinho had already resigned his team to finishing third. He even threatened to play a weakened team.
The chance to destroy the title hopes of a generational rival like Liverpool, however, proved too tempting for the Portuguese manager to pass up.Embed from Getty Images
This season is very different with Mauricio Sarri’s men sat in fourth place. The Blues face pressure from Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United for that elusive top four finish.
You could argue that Chelsea are favourites to bring the Europa League trophy home and secure Champions League football that way.
Seeing the likes of Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante rested during a mid-week quarter-final trip to Prague suggests Sarri’s priority lies within the Premier League though.
A draw may well be viewed as a good result for the Blues, but Sarri and Mourinho are chalk and cheese in managerial style. It’s hard to envisage 11 men sat deep, defending for 90 minutes. It’s just not ‘Sarriball.’
An unjust situation
Having lost just one game all season the Reds rightfully sit top of the league. Man City trail by just two points with a game in hand.
It seems completely unjust that a team with 82 points at this stage are not running away with the title.
Anything other than a win on Sunday would surely be viewed as a pivotal swing towards Pep Guardiola’s side during this season’s title race. Especially if they manage to maintain their winning streak against Crystal Palace.
In comparison, Rodgers’ Reds were in a much stronger position when gearing up to face Chelsea. Many suggested due to Liverpool’s remaining games that a draw would have been enough to all but clinch the title that day.
Had Liverpool sat back & taken a point rather than continue their marauding attacks, perhaps the wheels wouldn’t have fallen off against Crystal Palace in the following match. Perhaps Liverpool would’ve lifted the title that year after after all.Embed from Getty Images
There’s more pressure on the current squad to get a result against Chelsea, but they’re much more equipped to do so.
Jürgen’s men have developed a mental strength to tough games out. It’s a title-winning mentality that unfortunately was missing during the ill-fated 2013/14 campaign. This year the Reds will not “slip”.