What kind of run must we be on that a 3-1 victory away from home in a genuine European cauldron, in a Champions League quarterfinal, feels run of the mill?
Liverpool have won 17 of the past 18 games, and the only won we lost was at home to Inter Milan when we could afford a 1-0 defeat and still qualify.
It’s outrageous to be sat in the pub last night, with the Reds 2-1 up after a mostly scintillating performance, and feel a little flat, isn’t it?!
This is what Jurgen Klopp has done to us. He’s spoiled us rotten and now only the biggest cups will get us out of our seats. As fans, these really are the Days of our Lives and we should enjoy every minute – as one day – there’ll be a different manager in the hot-seat and everything will feel a little worse.
As well as scoring three excellent goals, Liverpool missed three one-on-one chances. One from Mo Salah (who badly needs a goal, it has to be said), Luis Diaz (who made up for it later on) and Diogo Jota – who could have truly put this tie to bed at the death – it isn’t already.
Liverpool strolled past Watford without getting out of second gear at the weekend and put in an underrated, controlled performance versus Benfica, but the real job starts on Sunday.
It’s a trip to the Etihad in what’s surely the biggest Premier League game in many a season. When was the last time the two horses in a two-horse race played each other during a run-in? One of the sad things about the battle in 2017/18 was that Liverpool and City never played each other towards the end. Instead, we both just won all our games and that was that.
This time though, there is a genuine possibility or even likelihood that whoever wins will also secure the title. City going four points clear will be very hard to turn around as they’ll need to mess up twice in seven games – something that surely won’t happen. Some Reds would take a draw, but again, are City really going to drop points before the season’s end? Their fixture list is easy and they’ll be incredibly motivated. Plus, they’re an insanely good side and the teams they’re set to come up against are not. Klopp will go all out to win, anyway. He knows no other way.
What will benefit Liverpool is an array of healthy options at the manager’s disposal, and Klopp’s use of his multiple players will perhaps define this month. Right now, the chance of a quadruple makes this April as big as maybe any other, but if we succeed, it makes May the true definitive.
Liverpool's fixtures for April! 🔴#YNWA 💯 #COYR pic.twitter.com/7SmxvGPtMZ
— The Red 🔴 Johnsen (@JohnsenStle) March 31, 2022
On the hour mark versus Benfica, Klopp took off Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Thiago. The first two slogged it out during the World Cup Play-Offs and will benefit from the rest, while Thiago is a brilliant but delicate player whose minutes must be managed extremely carefully.
It looks like Klopp will start Thiago at the Etihad and then give him midweek in the Champions League quarterfinal second-leg off. Perfect.
By securing a two-goal victory, Klopp can rest his Big Hitters in between the City games, the second of which comes in the FA Cup the following weekend. City, who only have a one-goal lead and are heading to Atletico Madrid next week, cannot do this.
The manager could start Kostas Tsimikas, Joe Gomez, Naby Keita (who has been quietly excellent whenever fit for a while now), Curtis Jones, Roberto Firmino and even a Taki Minamino/Divock Origi against Benfica, and we’d still be fine. Liverpool are a much better side than the Portuguese and the help of the Anfield crowd will confirm as much.
The team for City at the weekend picks itself, right up until the front-three. That’s Alisson, Trent, Robbo, Virg, Matip; Fab, Thiago, Hendo… And three more.
There was a time when the only automatic was the ‘Salah, Mane, Firmino’ triumvirate but 20-goal Diogo Jota and hotshot Luis Diaz have changed that.
For me, Klopp taking off Salah and Mane early last night shows they’ll get the nod, and it’ll be practically impossible to leave out Jota given how deadly he is in the box. We might only get a few big chances and it’ll require a killer of his ilk to take one.
After City (full strength), Benfica (rotated XI), City (full strength), Liverpool host Manchester United and then Everton.
Fans will likely be angry an hour before kick-off if Klopp rotates, but he’s shown on multiple occasions a preference to do it against Everton especially – and it nearly always works. Perhaps he feels with a guaranteed noisy-Anfield, anything we put out will be too good for the local rivals.
The fact the Manchester United game on April 19 comes three days after the Wembley FA Cup tie with City also brings up the possibility for rotation.
Keita is playing so well though, which enables him to come in and out of the side without it getting considerably weaker, and the multiple options up top create a similar dynamic in offence.
Ibrahima Konate made a mistake v Benfica but he’s still been very, very good and should be entirely trusted to partner Virgil van Dijk – the one player, perhaps along with Alisson, who should start in every fixture this month.
When looking at City’s bench lat night, it was notably weaker than Liverpool’s. Hopefully the strength of options at Klopp’s disposal will help us enjoy a better April when considering the jaw-dropping relentlessness of the schedule.