A defining weekend of the Premier League season went completely the opposite of how we would have liked. A win for us against Chelsea would have taken us a step closer to the league title, and it wasn’t too unrealistic to hope that Manchester City would drop points at Crystal Palace to only strengthen our cause.
It didn’t go that way. A draw to Chelsea wouldn’t have been the worst of results, but to see our 11 game winning run come to an end with a thoroughly undeserved 2-0 loss was a big blow. To then see Man City come away winners with the same score line in their game meant that winning the league is now (effectively) out of our hands.
That’s not a nice feeling. After being so close to the finish line with our boys playing the way they had been, we fans had every reason to be confident of going all the way and winning the three games that would have sealed it for us. Despite what may get said in the media, I don’t think we suffered due to any kind of pressure against Chelsea. Playing against the sort of tactics that the London club utilised can be tricky when it’s a third round cup tie against a League Two side. When it’s one of the most expensively assembled teams in the league operating in such a way, you know it’s not going to be easy to break through.
Our will to win meant that we weren’t happy to just play for the draw which, as with many of Chelsea’s other games against the top sides this season, would have resulted in one of the most boring games you’re likely to see. That kind of match seems to suit Jose Mourinho down to the ground when he’s in control, but when he’s the one wanting the win and he comes up against it, it suddenly becomes ‘19th Century football.’
Mourinho probably thought he was toying with us, by implying that we could imitate his tactics, play a game of few chances and both settle for a draw, or we could attack, try to break them down, and risk getting caught on the counter attack. In fact, he would have known that we would never play for the draw so lined his side up ready to soak up as much pressure as possible. An unfortunate slip from Steven Gerrard changed the game completely and from there we were always up against it.
So where do we go from here? Crystal Palace is certainly no easy place for us to go next week, and Newcastle are in extremely poor form but if it’s all to play for by the final day of the season, you can guarantee they won’t make it easy for us. That being said, we have to aim to win both our games and just see where that leaves us. Six more points and Chelsea would still offer no threat to us. Man City’s penultimate and final games to Aston Villa and West Ham respectively may seem pretty straightforward for them, so on paper it ironically falls on our local rivals Everton to take the points away from City that we desperately need. On one hand, it’s now looking like Man City’s title to lose, but on the other it looks perfectly poised for a frantic finish to the season where anything could happen.
I wrote last week that it seemed strange to be five points clear at the top of the table and to be touted as favourites. Like it or not, it’s just not how Liverpool do things. It was never going to be a nice, plain sailing end to the season. So mathematically we may have made things more difficult for ourselves, but weirdly it hasn’t damaged my belief that this can be our year. We’re underdogs again, we’re facing an uphill battle, and the nerves are unbearable. All in a day’s work of being a Liverpool supporter.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)