The threats to Liverpool’s bid to become the next ‘Invincibles’
Liverpool are yet to taste defeat in the Premier League with just 11 games to go, but can they maintain their unbeaten record?
Jurgen Klopp’s men need 12 points to wrap up their first title of the Premier League era and it is pretty much unthinkable that they could blow it now. That doesn’t mean they will have nothing to play for once they have guaranteed the title though, as they have a real opportunity to go through the campaign unbeaten in the league.
Arsenal were the last team to achieve the feat in the 2003-04 season and there are a few similarities between the two sides. That incarnation of the Gunners had lost out on a league crown in agonising circumstances the season before but responded in real style, while last year Liverpool lost out to Manchester City by just one point even if they were never really in the driving seat.
Liverpool looked a little nervous on Monday night against West Ham and fell 2-1 behind in the second half but showed their inner strength and ultimately claimed a 3-2 win.
There are a few variables to consider of course. Despite Liverpool’s huge lead, the weight of expectation could play on their minds until the title is mathematically won, while after the top prize has been secured Klopp could rotate in the league to focus on other targets – particularly if they manage to overturn a first-leg deficit and see off Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Whatever circumstances may arise, we’ve had a look through Liverpool’s remaining 11 league games to try and gauge the chances of their unbeaten record being ended.
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Watford (a) February 29
Watford are next up for Liverpool but the Hornets are in woeful form and are winless in six. We can’t see any danger to their unbeaten record in this one.
Bournemouth (h) March 7
Bournemouth head to Anfield next month and the Cherries only hope really is that this tie is sandwiched between an FA Cup clash with Chelsea and the second leg of their European tie with Atleti.
Even if Klopp does opt to rotate for this one, it is still hard to see the relegation-threatened Cherries producing a huge shock on Merseyside.
Everton (a) March 16
The Merseyside derby at Goodison Park could be a potential banana skin for Klopp’s champions-elect. Everton have had a tough season but in Carlo Ancelotti now have a top quality manager at the helm, and the Blues will be looking for some payback after being knocked out of the FA Cup by what was essentially Liverpool’s youth team earlier in the season.
Crystal Palace (h) March 21
Manchester City (a) April 5
Liverpool may well have wrapped up the title by the time they head to soon-to-be deposed champions Manchester City but of all their remaining fixtures this one, clearly, has the biggest potential to see their unbeaten run ended.
City were arguably unlucky not to claim at least a point in the reverse fixture as they went down 3-1 at Anfield despite creating some great chances, and they will be looking to make a statement after what was to all intents and purposes a limp title defence.
Aston Villa (h) April 12
Brighton (a) April 20
Burnley (h) April 25
Arsenal (a) May 2
Arsenal’s current crop may want to protect the 2003-04 vintage’s ‘Invincibles’ moniker – currently only shared by a Preston team from way, way, way back in 1888-89 in English top flight football – and that could add a bit of intrigue.
The Gunners could still have a European place to play for and Liverpool will almost certainly have been celebrating their title win for a few weeks by this point, but a win would still be a massive ask for the Gunners.
Chelsea (h) May 9
Like Arsenal, Chelsea could still have plenty to play for at this stage but they have looked a little lightweight in recent weeks.
Newcastle (a) May 17
If Liverpool do make it to the final round of games unbeaten the last hurdle will be Newcastle United at St James’ Park. The Magpies have been poor this season but if they need a result to stay up that adds an element of uncertainty, and the chance to deny Liverpool an unbeaten season would also be a real motivating factor.
And there we have it. Man City are the obvious threat, while Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and possibly Newcastle all have outside chances but other than that it all looks fairly straightforward for Liverpool.