Porto was a pleasant surprise. Although confidence was high among supporters before the match, it was questionable as to whether such belief was justified.
Liverpool hadn’t looked entirely convincing since at the very least Bayern Munich away. There’s an argument to be made that the Reds had only put in one 8/10 performance in the whole of 2019, that being Watford at home.
But Klopp’s side charged into the Portuguese champions. They looked comfortable and in almost total control for ninety minutes against a proper football team. They looked like the best version of themselves, something that’s only been seen a handful of times all season.
It felt like exactly the performance the team needed going into the Chelsea game. Another two goals, and another source for those goals emerging in the shape of Naby Keita. A first clean sheet in six games for the goalkeeper and his defence, some rest time for Gini Wijnaldum and minutes back in the legs of the returning Dejan Lovren.
Heading into Sunday, there should be no fear over Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri’s side find themselves in third, but perhaps are the most favourable team Liverpool could play out of the four chasing Champions League football.
They are a serious footballing team. 11 points out of 15 at home against the rest of the big six proves that. They are the only side to have beat Liverpool in their own ground in the last 14 months, and plenty of their starting eleven on Sunday will have experience of coming to Anfield and getting a result.
Away from home though, they’ve failed to pick up a single point at Wembley, the Emirates and the Etihad, losing 11-1 on aggregate. There was another defeat away to Spurs in the League Cup and six of their seven league losses have been on the road.
It’s fitting that Klopp’s team should play Chelsea days after Sarri’s squad travel away to Slavia Prague for a Europa League quarter-final.
It is the most Europa League game imaginable in the most awkward stage where a manager isn’t sure what competition he should fully commit to. All of this comes as a result of Liverpool outpacing Chelsea in the run-in last year.
Van Dijk, Henderson and Robertson will step on to the pitch fresher than Rudiger, Jorginho and Willian as a result of the Reds doing the business when it really mattered twelve months ago.
It’s a reminder that this doesn’t all have to be one big journey to a final destination that is silverware. Liverpool are constantly reaping the rewards of their past brilliance.
Chelsea’s record following away matches in Europe is poor, although expected, considering the ridiculous scheduling of ties.
In the five games following trips in Europe this season, they’ve only scored in one of them (2-1 vs Brighton after a dead rubber away to Vidi in December). In the four others, they’ve drawn two and lost two.
The Reds could do with a repeat of the Porto victory on Sunday. As unlikely as it feels given the DNA of this club, a goal in the first fifteen minutes and a second before half-time would feel like everything Liverpool need.
The turbulent and tumultuous ride of the last three games has seen this team look shaky and for once, somewhat suspect at the back. Even with five games left it just doesn’t feel sustainable.
Even talking about such a situation seems pointless though, we all know it’s not going to happen that way. There’s every chance the eleven lads in red look all over the place for 87 minutes, before a late surge nets them the winner at the Kop end.
Liverpool should hope Chelsea play with some endeavour. A low block of blue shirts deep inside their own half would immediately set the narrative that this is just version 2.0 of the infamous game five years ago.
They could also do without Eden Hazard having one of the dazzling performances he so often reserves for games on Merseyside.
He’s not the only threat though. Looking through the Chelsea team, they’re one of the few sides who will come to Anfield this season and are as likely to score as they are to draw a blank.
The presence of the Belgian along with the likes of Willian, Alonso and Higuain shows that Chelsea are no mugs, regardless of how erratic they might be from game to game. Kepa will have to be beaten twice to make sure of a win.
More than anything, Liverpool just need to get over the line against the Blues. The following two games in the league will be against a Cardiff side as good as relegated and a Huddersfield team who languish last on 14 points.
That’s before a trip to St James Park to take on Newcastle, who will have little or nothing to play for. Then the grand finale versus Wolves, who will in the worst-case scenario be fighting for seventh place and a potential European berth.
City are more likely to drop points with every week that goes by and a win on Sunday would leave no margin of error for Guardiola’s side as they navigate their way through a frankly ridiculous run-in. Liverpool should be favourites to win this league by Sunday night.
Just win Reds, just win.
Allez Les Rouges.