Liverpool have the title all-but confirmed this season – but our man Dave Tindall ponders a moral dilemma and predicts a never-to-be-beaten points haul over the remaining 11 games in his latest Red Letter feature.
The maths is getting easier now. With 11 games to go, we need 12 points to be crowned champions for the first time in 30 years.
My attempts to stress it ‘isn’t done yet’ are now met with verbal rotten tomatoes which is probably right, although the demons popped up again in Monday night’s win over West Ham.
Despite my usual pre-match ritual of getting stuck in traffic on the M62 and having a wee in John Lewis on arrival three hours later (the latter an active choice based on superstition, the former just a complete and unintended bind), something seemed to be going wrong.
As usual, we went 1-0 up early but then a side managed by David Moyes, who has a dreadful record at Anfield, somehow went 2-1 up. Was this the start of a crazy wobble with the title finishing line in sight? That thought poked at me for 15 minutes or so but, of course, the mentality monsters got it done and I whizzed back along the M62 in half the time on the back of another three points.
And so, with slight reluctance, I’m now starting to think about not just winning the title but the idea of going through the season unbeaten.
Talking about “going unbeaten” actually seems pretty unfair when we’ve won 26 of our 27 games so far. That’s just ridiculous, almost hard to comprehend. It’s like we’ve had 26 strikes and a spare.
Going unbeaten implies draws but we’ve had just one. And, as I’ve said before in this column, draws aren’t good. Three of them gets you the same number of points as one win and two defeats.
And if you want the ultimate example of the relative value of draws, how about the example of Perugia in Serie A in 1978-79. Incredibly, they went through that season unbeaten. Even more incredibly, they didn’t win the title. Why? They drew 19 of their 30 games and were edged out by AC Milan. It’s one of the great quiz questions…..
So if you ever go to Perugia and see someone wearing an “Invincibles 78-79 retro shirt”, have a quiet word!
Despite the lack of perfection in a season which has say 30 wins, eight draws and no defeats (98pts), that will still be viewed as closer to perfect than if we win 36, draw one and lose one (109pts).
Hopefully we make history of some sort but here’s a question to Liverpool fans: would you rather go through the season unbeaten and match Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003/4 or beat Manchester City’s record top-flight tally of 100 points? If your answer is A), the obvious response is ‘Remember Perugia’.
How will Liverpool fare in their remaining 11 games?
Of course, it may be best to simplify the argument and do both – go unbeaten and set a record tally. Time, then, to look at those final 11 games and play guess the score.
1/ Watford (away, Feb 29)
After a mini-revival under Nigel Pearson, Watford haven’t won in six. Everton won there; even Tranmere drew 3-3 at Vicarage Road. No reason to expect anything other than three more points which takes us into the 80s. Prediction: Win
2/ Bournemouth (home, Mar 7)
The Cherries caused Klopp some problems in his first season but we’ve won the last six meetings by an aggregate of 17-0. Enough said. Prediction: Win
3/ Everton (away, Mar 16)
In theory, if City slip up, we could win the title at Goodison. But I think this Monday night clash could be tricky for one reason – Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian has a good record against Klopp, taking four points off us in the Champions League this season when in charge of Napoli. Time to remember the bigger picture and take the point. Prediction: Draw
4/ Crystal Palace (home, Mar 21)
Another tricky one. Palace were the last team to win a Premier League game at Anfield (way back in April 2017) and they have a habit of going to big grounds and causing shocks. We’ve edged the last two at home against them – 1-0 and 4-3 – and a single-goal victory (we’re good at those) could be the outcome again. Of course, there’s the added element of this possibly being the game that secures the title so the atmosphere could be through the roof. Prediction: Win
5/ Man City (away, Apr 5)
Or is the game where we win the title? I’d rather we did so at home but how sweet it would be to have the baton passed on the ground of our biggest rivals. City played with eyeballs out to win this fixture 2-1 last season but we’ve won there in the Champions League and will they have the same intensity this time if their focus is still the Champions League (the first leg of the quarter-finals is a few days later)? I have a sneaky feeling this will turn into a symbolic night. The kings are dead (them); long live the new kings (us). Prediction: Win
6/ Aston Villa (home, Apr 12)
Hopefully this is the start of a lap of honour and we have the swagger of champions, smash a few past them and laugh at John Terry as he tries to have a bust-up in the tunnel over an incident he wasn’t happy at when we were already 5-0 up. Prediction: Win
7/ Brighton (away, Apr 20)
A late Monday night kick-off down in Brighton is taking the mick out of travelling fans but hopefully title-winning giddiness can still kick in as Reds fans pile back up the motorway after a solid 2-0 win. Prediction: Win
8/ Burnley (home, Apr 25)
“We were still in the game at 1-0,” squawks Sean Dyche after losing 4-0 and suffering a fifth straight defeat against Klopp. Winning at Old Trafford is one thing but winning at Anfield is a rather different proposition these days. Prediction: Win
9/ Arsenal (away, May 2)
If we’re still unbeaten by this point, this may be another tough hurdle to clear with the Gunners getting their schizzle together under Mikel Arteta. They could have more intensity if top four/five is still a goal and we’ve only drawn here on our last two visits. There’s also the possibility of us playing a Champions League semi a few days after. Prediction: Draw
10/ Chelsea (home, May 9)
Sometimes perfect endings don’t work out. We lost to Norwich in our last game in front of the standing Kop in 1994 before the bulldozers came in. So even though this is the last home Premier League match of the campaign, Chelsea – a better away side than at home – are tough opponents. Then again, we might be going for a full house of 19 Premier League home wins (never done before) so we’ll be up for it. Difficult one but I can see this being more a day when players carry babies/toddlers around the ground, wave a lot, display the trophy and quickly forget the result. Prediction: Draw
11/ Newcastle (away, May 17)
It’s a lovely sunny day for the trip north and Sadio Mane and Mo Salah score two apiece in a 5-0 romp to share the Golden Boot again.
So there we have it. Fact or fiction? If all this played out, we’d finish unbeaten with eight wins and three draws from our final 11 games. We limp a bit near the end before a big win at Newcastle takes us to 106 points – a tally that will never, ever be beaten. City are runners-up, 20 points behind. Prediction: Win