Can Liverpool win the title? Five reasons why the Reds are serious contenders
Now just four points off the top on the back of a stunning victory over Arsenal and dramatic win at Craven Cottage, Liverpool fans are dreaming of Premier League success.
They will have to rely on the top three faltering somewhat – Arsenal may already be doing so – and Brendan Rodgers concedes it is a long shot, but with the momentum behind them, it is possible that the Premier League trophy could end up at Anfield at the season’s end.
Here are five reasons why the Reds have become serious contenders.
1. No Europe
No club of Liverpool’s standing should endure a season without European football, but the current Premier League table shows that there can be advantages from not competing in the Champions or Europa League.
Liverpool have been distracted by neither this season and, having been eliminated from the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle last September, Brendan Rodgers’ team has been able to focus fully on the Premier League.
Players have benefited from greater rest and Rodgers has been able to spend more time on the training ground, imposing his methods and philosophy on the squad.
Clearly, playing in the Champions League is a must for Liverpool and the greater rewards from that will enable Rodgers to add to his squad.
But missing out on the Europa League has certainly been no bad thing.
2. Suárez and Sturridge
Liverpool lay claim to the top two leading goalscorers in the Premier League this season with Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge.
Suárez is on course for the Golden Boot having scored 23 times in the league alone, while Sturridge is in second spot with 16 goals, one ahead of Manchester City’s injured Argentine forward Sergio Agüero.
Not since the days of Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush have Liverpool benefited from such a prolific strike pair and history shows how important the goals from Dalglish and Rush proved to be when it came to bringing trophies to Anfield.
If Rodgers can keep both forwards fit and scoring, Liverpool have a strong chance of winning the title.
3. Steven Gerrard
Approaching his 34th birthday in May, the Liverpool captain has suffered years of taunts from Manchester United supporters over the gaping hole in his medal collection created by his failure win a league title.
But Gerrard may have the last laugh on his tormentors and his last-minute penalty at Fulham, which turned a draw into a victory for Liverpool, suggested he is ready to drive his team on until the very end in order to end the long wait for the league championship.
Having altered his game to become more defensive and protective of the back four, Gerrard remains Liverpool’s inspiration.
The England captain perhaps senses that this unexpected chance to win the title is his ‘now or never’ moment.
Having carried United through a decade of under-achievement, Bryan Robson finally claimed a league winners’ medal at the age of 36 in 1993, but Gerrard appears determined not to wait quite so long as Robson.
4. Good fixtures
The first rule of any league season is that all clubs have to play their opponents twice, but having overcome some tough fixtures to get to this stage of the campaign, Liverpool may benefit from a comfortable run-in to the title.
They have now played all of their main rivals away from home, with the exception of Manchester United who are now so far off the radar that they can only dream of catching Liverpool, so the destiny of the title could lie at Anfield.
Arsenal have already been hammered at Anfield, while Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham must yet visit the red half of Merseyside.
Liverpool face most of the bottom half over the final weeks of the season, so perhaps the 24-year wait for the title will end this May after all.
5. Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers endured a turbulent face campaign at Anfield last season, with his methods struggling to take hold and Suárez being banned for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
But the former Swansea manager held firm and stuck to his philosophy. He added players to play in a system, rather than sign players and then work out where to play them, and the rewards are now coming to fruition.
Philippe Coutinho has been a stunning success, Sturridge has repaid Rodgers’ faith and Simon Mignolet has impressed in goal following the manager’s decision to offload the popular and influential Pepe Reina.
Even when times were hard last season, Rodgers looked like a man with a plan and a belief in his methods.
He has been strong and determined and Liverpool now look capable of winning the title far sooner than anyone could have imagined.