April 23, 2017.
Liverpool is playing Crystal Palace at home in a must-win match if they want to have any chance of winning the title for the first time in almost 30 years.
Star striker Philippe Coutinho smashes a beautiful free-kick into the top corner to help Liverpool’s cause, but his efforts are to no avail. Christian Benteke nets two goals for Palace to end his former club’s title hopes.
It took 1,369 days for Liverpool to lose another league match at Anfield. Over three and a half years, Liverpool finally lifted the Premier League trophy, won the Champions League, and helped turn Jurgen Klopp and FW Mo Salah into household names across England. Going into this season, Liverpool was the majority favorite to win the title again, adding a talent like MF Thiago Alcantara over the summer to bolster an already very strong squad. However, injuries and attacking struggles have hampered their attempt at back-to-back titles.
After going 68 matches without a loss at home, Liverpool has lost two in a row, putting their title defense aspirations in serious doubt.
The end of Liverpool’s home win streak could signal the end of their Premier League reign.
Every week, there is a new key addition to Liverpool’s injury list. First, CB Virgil Van Dijk was going down with a devastating knee injury in October, which will cost him the season. Then CB Joe Gomez got hurt the following month, as did WB Trent Alexander-Arnold. Losing those three key players to Liverpool’s defense looked like a knockout blow at the time, but Liverpool responded thanks nicely to newly signed ST Diogo Jota, providing a boost to the squad.
Well, guess what? Jota injured his knee and hasn’t played in over a month.
That’s four of Liverpool’s best players who have missed extended periods of time due to injury, not even mentioning bench players like CB Joel Matip and MF Naby Keita, who can’t stay fit either. Liverpool has been hurt especially hard by the injury bug this season. Overcoming the number of injuries Liverpool currently face is an incredibly tall task that, so far, they’ve been unable to achieve.
Over the past three seasons, Liverpool has had one of the best attacks in all of Europe. Led by a front three of Salah, FW Sadio Mane, and FW Roberto Firmino, the Reds were able to score goals at ease. However, this season that has not been the case. Liverpool scored 43 goals through 21 matches this season, compared to 50 a year ago at this time. Granted, they are still second in the league in terms of goals scored. Still, with all of their defensive injuries, Liverpool needed to be their normal dominant attacking selves to compete for the title seriously.
Salah has struggled of late to find the back of the net consistently, while Firmino only has two goals in the league to his name. Still, Liverpool’s inability to score goals is quite surprising.
Even Klopp is confused by his squad’s lackluster attacking performances.
“There’s no easy explanation,” he said after Liverpool’s scoreless draw against Man United a few weeks back. “We have always missed chances, but we would just have another one which we used, and that’s how it is,” he concluded.
Without more consistent goal-scoring from their best players, Liverpool is well and truly out of the title race.
Let’s be honest. Top to bottom, this is about as strong as the Premier League has ever been. Just about every match is competitive, with shocking results becoming the norm across the league. Liverpool’s first two losses at home in four years came to Burnley and Brighton. Yeah, you read that right. Not Chelsea and Man City. Burnley and Brighton. Liverpool has had to grind through a challenging fixture list without much rotation in their squad due to injury. Other teams have taken advantage of Liverpool’s poor fitness to get the upper hand on a side that, at one point, was nearly unbeatable.
Right now, every match is a struggle for Liverpool, and unfortunately, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Their next three matches are against Man City, Leicester, and Everton, all sides that would love to topple the defending champs.
Never count Jurgen Klopp out of any competition, but this is about as bad as Liverpool has looked under his tutelage. Injuries ravaged their depth, the dismal attacking play has left them vulnerable to upsets, and a grueling schedule prevents the Reds from staying fit.
Liverpool is going to have to turn things around quickly if they want to go back-to-back.
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