Despite the heroics of last season still living quite vividly in the memory, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was quick to brush aside any talk of title aspirations in his first pre-match press conference of the Premier League season.
“Our aim is to be competitive. Like the top teams, we want to win a trophy. That would be an aim. In the league, it’s about sustaining Champions League football” he said ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Southampton at Anfield. “For that you want to arrive in fourth. Once you have consolidated that, you can look beyond that. That’s certainly our aim this season.” There’s a long way to go, but the route always seems a bit shorter if you get off to a flier and tomorrow that’s exactly what Rodgers — and his host of ex-Southampton players — will be looking to do as they try to avoid making things awkward at Anfield.
And, just like that, the title race goes to the final day. While it’s been 24-years since Liverpool last ended the season on top of the pile, Manchester City celebrated their first Premier League title only two seasons ago with a last gasp victory in the dying moments of the campaign; despite millions upon millions of pounds being invested into that side, some things haven’t changed.
It’s hard to even discuss Newcastle United right now. Although it’s absolutely imperative that we take all three points from Alan Pardew’s side on Sunday, it feels like something close to an after-thought to run through the mechanics of a match preview. At this late juncture, this is a win or it’s all gone scenario — does it really matter who Brendan Rodgers puts out on the field?
One game at a time, three more times; we’ve won nothing yet, but we’re so agonizingly close. After spending the vast majority of our season playing down our chances of winning the title, it’s hard to fathom us not claiming our first title in 24-years — and that’s the scary part.
The football Gods build you up just as easy as they knock you down and it could very well be Chelsea that send us sprawling on Sunday. Forget the talk of weakened teams and European priorities; none of that matters. Our fate is in our hands, not theirs, and if we can’t find that other level that we’ve pushed ourselves too so many times before, we only have ourselves to blame. This isn’t a match where we need throw down a marker and stake a claim. We’ve done that already; this where we take what’s rightfully ours.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has been around the block enough times to know that Sunday’s meeting with Norwich City is all that matters. Some people might point to next weekend’s potential title decider with Chelsea, but the Captain knows that nothing can be done about that now — Carrow Road is the destination and three points is what’s on offer.
The Reds may have enjoyed immense pleasure at Norwich in the past, but no one is about to take anything for granted. With a mere four matches left in this years Premier League campaign, Gerrard is a close as he’s ever been to claiming the one trophy that’s eluded him during a career that’s as storied as they come. Four more matches; four more cup finals.
In what will be the Reds last match before the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, it’s only fitting that they sit top of the table and poised to continue their run of nine-wins on the hop. Win, lose or draw, the atmosphere promises to be something out of this world, and Manchester City — early favorites to reclaim the crown they lost to cross-town rivals United last year — have what’s sure to be their most difficult game of the season ahead of them.