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How Liverpool’s Record Against the Top 4 Cost Them the PL Title
They say to be the best, you have to not lose against your closest opponents. Liverpool did that this season, not losing a single game against the three fellow teams to finish in the top four (Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur).
Agonisingly for Jurgen Klopp’s side, they weren’t able to win one either. The six points collected in the six draws were not enough for the Reds, as they finished one point behind Man City (who won eight points against the top four). Let’s break down each of Liverpool’s fellow Champions League qualifiers and where they could have made the pivotal difference to claim their 20th league title.
Champions League Final Tips
DIAZ, MANE & JUNIOR EACH 1+ SHOTS ON TARGET, CARVAJAL & MILITAO TO BE CARDED AND EACH TEAM 1+ CORNERS IN EACH HALF @ 66/1
Sunday 3rd October 2021 - Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City
Sunday 10th April 2022 - Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool
Liverpool and Manchester City have been the teams to beat in England now for four seasons. Ever since their last titanic title battle in 2018/19, Liverpool and City have won a title each. Liverpool walked it in 2019/20 whilst City made the most of an injury crisis at Anfield last season to ease to a fifth Premier League title.
This season, the rivalry was back on and the two fixtures between the two best teams in England did not disappoint.
The fixture at Anfield was controlled by two brilliant individual performances. Mo Salah’s goal for Liverpool against City is arguably the goal of the season, going past three City players and then beating Ederson at a tight angle. Phil Foden was the man for City and just like the season before, showed his exceptional talent on Merseyside, contributing a goal in a pulsating 2-2 draw.
When the title rivals met at the Etihad in April, City were the dominant team, with De Bruyne controlling the show to give City an early lead. Liverpool somehow managed to get an equaliser through Diogo Jota, but City’s dominance was rewarded just before half time, with Jesus’ lifted finish flashing past Alisson to give the home side a 2-1 lead into the break.
The second half saw the real Liverpool come out, with Mane’s goal within a minute of kick-off giving Red fans hope of a first league win in East Manchester for seven years. At this point in hindsight, Jurgen Klopp may have gambled for a winner to put Liverpool fully in command of the title race. A draw kept them in the hunt but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
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Liverpool vs Chelsea
Saturday 28th August 2021 - Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
Sunday 2nd January 2022 - Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool
Chelsea were seen as a serious contender at the start of the season to challenge Liverpool and City for the title. After the meeting at Anfield, this idea had not changed.
The men from Kings Road dominated the first half, with Kai Havertz giving Thomas Tuchel’s side a deserved lead. Reece James’ handball on the goalline saw the England right-back sent off to give Liverpool a lifeline, with Salah’s converting the subsequent penalty making it 1-1 at half time.
Surely this Liverpool side could make the man advantage count and grab a vital win against one of their main title rivals? Chelsea’s experienced defence had other ideas, with the Londoners mainly prohibiting Liverpool to long distant shots. Chance missed.
The game at Stamford Bridge was arguably the best game of the season. Well, the best first half of the season.
A possible Mane red card after six seconds, another spectacular Mo Salah finish, Liverpool were in control and 2-0 up.
Mateo Kovacic’s superb volley got Chelsea back into the game before a brilliant finish from American Christian Pulisic meant the teams went into half time level at 2-2.
Thanks in part to Benjamin Mendy, Liverpool couldn’t make the most of being the better team and another two points were dropped.
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Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday 19th December 2021 - Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool
Saturday 7th May 2022 - Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham
Out of all the teams that Liverpool has faced who qualified for the Champions League, the games against Spurs will haunt Reds fans the most.
When Liverpool visited the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium, Antonio Conte had sorted the side out that had become a shambles under Nuno Espirito Santo. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min made sure that Liverpool didn’t win in North London for the first time since 2017.
The reverse fixture at Anfield was Liverpool’s big chance to heap the most pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side. Spurs had their own battles to fight, however, with North London supremacy as well as Champions League football on the agenda for Antonio Conte’s side.
A strong defensive first half by the Lilywhites gave them confidence that they could not only get a point from Anfield but be the only team to win there this season. Son Heung-min, the league's joint-top scorer this season, showed his killer instinct, getting free at the back post to stun the Liverpool faithful.
Luis Diaz, arguably the best signing of the January transfer window alongside Dejan Kulusevski, scored a deflected shot to ensure Liverpool were level. No more goals were seen at Anfield, meaning they only climbed above Man City on goal difference.
Despite Man City dropping points at West Ham on the penultimate matchday, Liverpool would never be in the lead of the title race again this season, falling just short yet again against the Sky Blues, finishing on 92 points to the Citizen’s 93.
Liverpool have had an amazing season, with the Champions League final on Saturday against Real Madrid the chance to make it an incredible treble. Next season, Klopp will be adamant that his team doesn’t make the same mistakes again.
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