Liverpool’s run of eight consecutive wins to go top of the table and leave their title chances very much in their own hands has been something special, for sure.
The atmosphere around Anfield and the confidence and work ethic amongst the squad have played no small part, and of course Luis Suarez is the first Reds player to spring to mind when you think of individual contributions.
Suarez will surely collect a host of accolades for his efforts this season, and will also probably break even more goalscoring records than Robbie Fowler’s club benchmark for goals in a single Premier League season, when he hit number 29 in the 4-0 Anfield drubbing of Tottenham.
He could even end the campaign with more goals in a PL season than anyone, including when the concept’s earlier years hosted 22 teams and 42 fixtures. That’s despite missing the first few games due to his infamous suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
However, with eight wins secured and six to go, there is now a slight shift in the nature of Brendan Rodgers and his troops’ late charge towards perhaps finally ending the club’s 24-year league drought.
Having hit such a run of form from the comfortable slipstream behind Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, the Reds have overtaken them all to go top of the table heading into a very interesting run-in. All eyes are now on them.
Will this cause pressure to seep in? Maybe.
After all, even a couple of those wins, against Sunderland and Cardiff, were far from straightforward. There will be potential openings to exploit in this 'Pool side, especially when City and Chelsea themselves visit Merseyside in April, potentially doing so from behind their hosts in the standings.
Because of this, I think it will be down to a lot more than just the talismanic Suarez if Liverpool do indeed end a remarkable and unpredictable 2013/14 Premier League season by lifting the trophy – especially in the City and Chelsea games.
The first player I would single out as being key is Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool’s defence seems to sway from impressive – they’ve kept three clean sheets in their last five wins and were incredibly organised in the Spurs game – to wide open – they’ve also shipped three goals each to Swansea and Cardiff before coming close to blowing the two-goal lead against Sunderland.
Because of this, the Belgian will have to be at his most consistent, regardless of how the back-line cope with the likes of Silva/Dzeko and Hazard/Oscar.
While the defence has had mixed fortunes, at the best of times the centre-back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger has been absolutely monumental – they had a large role in keeping Tottenham restricted to tame efforts from outside the box on Sunday.
One would imagine the sheer occasion of those big games against Chelsea and City will be enough to motivate players and fans alike, and if Agger and Skrtel again lead from the back then the chances of that occasion unnerving the team will be greatly reduced.
Finally, I feel Joe Allen could have an underrated hand in Liverpool’s chances of winning the league.
While I am sure Joe isn’t happy whenever he does not start, as was the case at the weekend, I think he does a great job of putting his high work rate, tidy passing play and fresh legs to good use at the tail end of matches. Rodgers will also know this.
These four players will be crucial to the team if Liverpool are to not only approach the crunch City and Chelsea games as confidently and with the focus on display for most of the last eight games, but also avoid banana skins at places such as West Ham and Crystal Palace.
And as much as the City game on April 13 is fixing up to be ‘the big one’, don’t believe a word Jose Mourinho says about Chelsea’s title chances.
They will be very much in and around the hunt come April 27 at Anfield and as a result, both games will be equally huge and equally mouthwatering for the neutral.
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