Liverpool find themselves in a position they haven’t been in since 2009. It’s a daunting place to be for Jurgen Klopp’s champions.
Manchester United squeezed three points out of Burnley on Tuesday evening. Paul Pogba found a second-half winner to give his side a win at Turf Moor.
And with that, United climb to the top of the Premier League table. And that’s important – they’ll be there on Sunday, after all.
Liverpool host United at the weekend, three points behind their rivals. And that’s a situation they haven’t been in since 2009.
Liverpool have had a few title races in recent years, even if they only managed to win one of them. And the standout feature of those races were big games against their title rivals.
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Only, Liverpool usually go into them on top. They led the table last season when they faced Manchester City in November. They also led City for the crunch game the previous January, where Jon Stones cleared Mohamed Salah’s effort off the line with centimetres to spare.
Their previous major title clash came against City, too. That was a 3-2 win at Anfield in 2014 and once again, Liverpool went into it on top of the table.
And that creates a different attitude. You go into it with the ‘safety’ of knowing that defeat isn’t an absolute disaster but at the same time, avoiding it hurts your opponents more.
You’re not playing catchup and have a degree of control about proceedings. Your opponents almost certainly feel like they need a win.
Liverpool don’t have that on Sunday and it wasn’t there the last time they faced United in a title challenge.
That came back in 2009, when Liverpool travelled to Old Trafford in second place.
The Reds needed a win to keep the race alive – it won’t be quite as dire on Sunday – and they got that. An emphatic 4-1 win heaped pressure back on United.
Now, obviously, they held on and Liverpool didn’t win the title. But it is a nice reminder of what can happen when the Reds go into a game like this without a position of strength.
Hopefully, we can see similar again this time around and Liverpool can reignite their season.