As 2022 rolled in, Liverpool’s Premier League title dream looked further away than ever.
Ending a year of fluctuating fortunes in 2021 with defeat at Leicester, the Reds then headed to Chelsea for one of the toughest away games of the campaign without Alisson Becker, Joel Matip or Thiago Alcantara.
A self-isolating Jurgen Klopp was also absent at Stamford Bridge as the Reds were pegged back from 2-0 up and forced to settle for just a point. As Liverpool headed back north from the capital on January 2, an 11-point deficit looked like the impossible task against a Manchester City side who had taken 33 points from their previous 11 games.
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The mission looked even more forlorn with the news that Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita would miss the rest of the month due to their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Klopp’s side have dug deep since, though, winning every Premier League game to pick up the 27 points that have catapulted them right back into the mix as April draws in. City’s draws with Southampton and Crystal Palace, either side of a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham, have allowed a resurgent Reds to reignite the title race as we enter a critical month where both sides will also meet in the FA Cup semi-final.
The stakes are high for both clubs. City remain on course a treble while Liverpool’s fight is to become the first-ever team to complete a barely fathomable quadruple. They are the two best teams in England and, in all probability, Europe too.
“I didn’t think Manchester City were but I think they are more than catchable now,” Jamie Carragher says. “I think it is a real toss of a coin. I think that game at City [on April 10] almost looks like a title decider but I just can’t believe the position Liverpool find themselves in.
“And I think over the last four or five years, I wouldn’t say anyone has ever written this Liverpool team off, but sometimes you think maybe they wouldn’t be able to do certain things or question if he is the right signing and how someone might fit in. It just does. They always just seem to get it done.
“This Jurgen Klopp team, the one he calls the ‘mentality monsters’, well they are. They achieve things that you cannot believe are achievable, really.”
Liverpool were given some mid-season impetus by the arrival of Luis Diaz from Porto. The Colombia international was a transfer target for the summer before Tottenham’s interest accelerated plans at Anfield to bring in the 25-year-old for a fee that could rise up to £ 50m.
The addition of Diaz has given the Reds’ side an even more formidable look about it but his signing coincided with the return to fitness of key men during the winter break too. Suddenly Klopp was armed with what is surely the strongest squad at Anfield for decades.
Carragher, who was speaking at a charity fundraiser for Football For Change, adds: “I think right now Liverpool have a better squad than Man City. I think the signing of Luis Diaz and the injuries that look OK for Liverpool, you look at the bench and it is actually stronger than Man City’s, certainly in terms of numbers.
“So I think it is a real 50/50 and I wouldn’t bet against a Champions League final of Liverpool versus Manchester City. And it’s Manchester City v Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa in the last game of the season!”