With 11 English Premier League matches left to play, a familiar club has entered the fray for a top four finish. It just took them a little while to get there.
Sunday morning, Liverpool hosted Manchester City in a match with huge implications—not so much for City, but rather, the hosts. It took two masterful strikes from midfielders Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho, but when the dust had settled, the Reds were victorious.
With that result, the race for fourth place is more muddled than the race for second. Right now, Liverpool stand just two points back of Manchester United for fourth, three behind Arsenal for third, and seven shy of City for second. Sure, that last bit might be slightly out of reach, but Liverpool’s current league form is best in the EPL.
They’ll be more than happy with that, too. After failing to make it out of the Champions League group stage earlier this year and bowing out of the Europa League to Beşiktaş in a penalty shootout—the first they’ve lost in European competition—this past week, almost nothing else matters but league play from here on out. There’s an FA Cup quarterfinal match against Blackburn to look forward to, but no more two-legged ties, no more midweek matches that aren’t domestic.
The Reds haven’t lost a Premier League game in 2015, and have taken 26 out of a possible 30 over their last 10 matches. That is quite the turnaround for a club that invested in so many players over summer only to falter out of the gates. Through six matches between August and September, they only managed seven points. They went unbeaten in three league matches in October, claiming seven points in the process, before losing all but one of their four November contests.
Everything is going their way at the moment: injury issues are becoming less of a problem, midfielders like Coutinho are truly starting to take over games now, and the outspoken Brendan Rodgers is finally getting the best out of this relatively new group of players. For as off-putting as he can be in the media sometimes, he definitely knows how to manage a club. And really, that’s all that matters.
Liverpool has also benefited from a truly strange race for the European spots, and that has very little to do with the sides involved—with the exception of Southampton, of course. Arsenal’s surge in league form has been sorely needed, but on any given day you never really know what you’re going to get with them. Then there’s Manchester United. For as disjointed as they’ve looked multiple times this season, they still find themselves in fourth place.
Finally, there’s Southampton. While they were certainly done no favors in last week’s clash against the Reds, they now have taken just one point from their last three fixtures. Of course, Tottenham Hotspur remain just on the outside looking in, but everybody knows how that story ends.
Again, everything is coming up golden for Liverpool at the moment. Surely they can’t go unbeaten the rest of the way; nobody should expect that to happen. It isn’t as if they’ll be challenging for the title this year either; that has been Chelsea’s to lose. It appears as though they’ve got it all figured out, while Manchester City continue to be inconsistent and downright lost if Sergio Agüero doesn’t get involved.
Nobody should expect the Blues to collapse (they also have a game in hand on the majority of the field), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reds surged a little bit further and challenged for second. At the moment, seemingly nothing can go wrong. They’ll be looking to raise the FA Cup trophy at season’s end as they bid farewell to Steven Gerrard, but one thing is very certain: a second straight Champions League appearance is well within their grasp.