Challenging for the Premier League title and now into the quarter-finals of the Champions League – undoubtedly now is a good time to be a Liverpool fan.
After struggling away from home for almost a year in the Champions League, Liverpool produced one of their most memorable away displays in the modern history of the competition by triumphing 3-1 against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Liverpool’s victory ensured all four English teams progressed to the final eight of the Champions League for the first time in ten years, a sign that the English powerhouse is finally re-asserting itself on the European stage after a decade of Spanish, and to a lesser extent German, dominance.
Liverpool moving up as Bayern fall behind
There were far easier draws than Bayern Munich for the knockout stages, even with Liverpool finishing second in their Champions League group behind Paris Saint-Germain – who ironically are no longer in the competition.
The German giants’ great team of the 2010s may be on the decline but nevertheless represented a formidable force with their experience alone, bidding for an eighth successive appearance in the quarter-finals.
The swashbuckling Liverpool of last season could have pushed themselves into big trouble against the resilient and ruthless Bayern, but the Reds showcased their own newfound experience in Europe by controlling large periods of the two matches and outperforming their illustrious opponents.
Liverpool did not need to go mad and attempt to blow teams away in order to create such a lead that could cover their defensive deficiencies, as they did against Manchester City and Roma in last year’s competition.
Instead, they played with a style akin to their elite continental rivals and were patient, believing that they would take their chances and progress – which, with the greater space on offer at the Allianz, is what Liverpool did.
Sadio Mané was on fire again, as he has been throughout 2019, emphasized by his ridiculously brilliant opening goal, supplied to him by the constant colossus that is Virgil van Dijk, who found the back of the Bayern net inbetween Mané’s strikes. Liverpool’s first goal set the tone for the tie and their third ended Bayern’s hopes of a sixth Champions League crown.
The quarter-final draw against Portuguese side FC Porto will hold no fear for Liverpool, after defeating Porto 5-0 on aggregate in the last sixteen stage last season, and there will be no concerns about sustaining a challenge on two fronts either.
Liverpool’s squad may not have the depth of Manchester City’s, but it has arguably never been stronger since the Reds’ last league title in 1990.
Top spot awaits at Craven Cottage
There is plenty to do before revisiting European action, however. With Manchester City turning their attention to the FA Cup this weekend, Liverpool have the chance of moving back to the top of the Premier League with victory away to Fulham on Sunday afternoon.
Fulham, particularly in defence, have been hopeless. Whilst any team has a chance of beating the other in the Premier League, for Liverpool to not collect three points at Craven Cottage would surely signal the start of a white flag to Pep Guardiola and the blue half of Manchester in the race for the title.
Fulham are effectively fighting Huddersfield Town to avoid the ignominy of finishing bottom of the Premier League pile. Relegation is almost certain as Fulham despair over an eleven point gap to Cardiff City in eighteenth and a thirteen point gap from safety, while only being three points clear of Huddersfield.
Liverpool meanwhile can move two points clear of Man City with a win, albeit having played a game more. Yet having the points on the board is always better than the games in hand – as long as you win.
Reds must maintain Munich momentum
Liverpool are coming off a massive high with their victory in Germany and cannot allow a dip in form and concentration to follow against Fulham. Manchester United struggled in defeat to Arsenal following their last-minute ecstasy in Paris but a top-four chase allows for slipups. The title race, on the other hand, does not, particularly one which has been record-breaking with the number of points two sides have amassed simultaneously in one campaign.
Whoever finishes second this season could be viewed as the best runners-up in Premier League history, but that will be no consolation to however loses out on the title – particularly Liverpool after twenty-nine years of waiting for what was once their bread and butter competition.
Just as with Bayern, Liverpool need to approach Fulham on Sunday as a knockout tie, because City certainly will not drop points when they visit Craven Cottage later this month. The Reds cannot afford to hand over any more advantages with the title no longer in the hands, and certainly not when City have a set of comfortable fixtures for the next month.
Liverpool needs top spot to stay in the title hunt – the pressure games just keep on coming. Yet Liverpool fans will be excited that so much is still to play for as we head into the season’s climax.