The season-long theme of one step forward, two steps back continued for Liverpool in the Bernabeu on Tuesday. They headed into the Champions League quarter-final first leg with Real Madrid in relatively positive fashion after a series of good results, however their shortcomings were exposed for all to see in a 1-3 defeat to the Galacticos.
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It seems almost a lifetime ago when Liverpool last played a game. It was March 15, to be precise, when the Reds defeated Wolves courtesy of a Diogo Jota goal, and after success against RB Leipzig in the Champions League as well there was the tiniest slither of momentum being gathered in a season wholly lacking in it. And then along came the international break to spoil everything.
Not playing in the Premier League and not playing at Anfield. It’s a strange recipe for success, but once again Liverpool showed that their bizarre season can have its upsides with an excellent win over RBB Leipzig on Wednesday.
So, this is it then. The final hurrah of a wretched season comes in the Champions League, which ahs provided some sanctuary from an abysmal title defence while on domestic duty.
They say that home is where the heart is, but nothing could be further from the truth for Liverpool right now. They have suffered five straight defeats at Anfield, capped by the 0-1 reverse at the hands of Chelsea on Thursday evening.
Let’s be honest: amid the abject misery that has been Liverpool’s 2020/21 campaign, there have been occasional improvements that have proven, ultimately, to be false dawns. So whether the 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday proves to be anything more than that we shall have to see, but there was a vitality and an intensity about the Reds that was born about by a handful of tactical tweaks from Jurgen Klopp.
It has been the template for this derisory 2020/21 season – one step forward, two emphatically backwards. After the win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League, you could forgive Reds fans for feeling a tad more positive about their club – but such feelings were extinguished in dramatic fashion by the 0-2 defeat to Everton in the Merseyside derby last weekend.
There was a moment during the 1-3 defeat to Leicester City on Saturday where the TV cameras panned to Jurgen Klopp on the sidelines, and he was shown head down chuckling to himself. It was the sort of chuckle you seen in films just before a character then bursts into tears.
While most Liverpool fans were thinking it, few truly wanted to admit that the club’s Premier League title defence was over. But Reds supporters have no choice now after the devastating 1-4 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, which definitively showed the gulf in class between the two teams this term.
“The gap to City … I am manager of Liverpool and so I have to say we want to be champions, and of course we do, but you need games for it and we need performances for it and we don’t have that.”
Those were the words of Jurgen Klopp immediately after Liverpool’s 0-1 defeat to Brighton on Wednesday evening, with the German all but waving the white flag in his side’s quest to defend the Premier League title.