The strangest and most surreal campaign in recent memory this may have been, but it will end in the most predictable of finishes as the team with the deepest pockets and the best team in world football finds itself in a once again in the lead.
It’s now three titles in the past four years for Pep Guardiola’s men after their impending success was stamped with Leicester’s 2-1 win at Manchester United on Tuesday.
The feeling of disappointment would likely have been only vague at Old Trafford, given the real lack of belief that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could actually bring their rivals back to town.
All the more so when you factor in that Brendan Rodgers’ loss to the Foxes was another nail in the coffin of Liverpool’s hopes of destroying the Champions League party in the 11th hour.
Liverpool’s goal of just making this box, of sorts, as we enter the final week of a campaign that will never be looked back fondly.
But it would be a minor miracle if they were in the hat for the long and tedious August Champions League draw procedure, given what has happened since the start of the year.
Thursday’s inspiring 4-2 win at Old Trafford gave them more than a chance to fight in the final week, but few would have predicted it as the season unfolded in the heartbreaking two months between January and March.
A modern rivalry that has become increasingly tense and unpleasant between fans in recent years has yet to truly infiltrate the boundaries of the pitch between City and Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s revelation that he texted Ilkay Gundogan and Guardiola the night their success was confirmed only adds to that.
Guardiola, for his part, did exactly the same when the Reds were crowned European champions in June 2019.
But while the deep respect that exists between the two managers is at odds with the continued tit-for-tat between supporters, especially online, such kindness should not be seen as a weakness.
Make no mistake, this laughable and contemptuous season has hurt Liverpool, both figuratively and literally.
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This left star players on the board as the title slipped away unceremoniously.
And it’s the one that will end with another hammer blow on May 29 when either City or Chelsea are crowned Champions League winners.
Pretty much anything that could have gone wrong has been fixed for Klopp and his players and rivals Liverpool in their downfall of the season.
The fact that Manchester United can still add Europa League success to their largely promising campaign is just another kick in the lower regions for those worshiping at Anfield altar.
But despite the blackening clouds accumulating over Liverpool, there was also a silver lining this week.
“We all know how the season has gone – and we are not happy with the way it has gone,” Virgil van Dijk said this week.
It sounded as much of a warning as an admission as he declared his intention to bypass the European Championships with a heavy heart in favor of hitting the ground next season with Liverpool.
“Recovering injured players already makes us better,” Klopp said on Wednesday. “These are our first transfers. “
Frankly, having the best center-back in the world available again will instantly increase Liverpool’s fortunes. How could he not?
At a time when Ruben Dias impact is making headlines at the Etihad, Van Dijk’s return later this summer will be a timely reminder of the transformation from the most cherished player in Anfield history.
Almost overnight, following his £ 75million transfer from Southampton, Van Dijk changed the lay of the land at Liverpool.
They went from challengers to champions with the guiding hand of No.4 at the back.
For a long time, Van Dijk was the father of Liverpool fireworks, making sure the fun ran safe.
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A player who will come to define an era under Klopp, captain Oranje has been the foundation of a defense that has helped the Reds win the Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League over the course of 13 glorious and trophy-laden months between 2019. and 2020.
As he continues his promising rehabilitation at the AXA Center, Van Dijk must once again prepare to have the same impact again when he returns to this Liverpool side.
But, above all, he will not have to do it alone.
Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are also progressing well in their own recovery and Klopp remains hopeful that all three will strengthen his defensive ranks when the preseason beep tests begin in early July.
The continued search for a top-level center-back will help transform options for Klopp who is currently juggling the inexperience of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips.
Having a defensive department to choose from once again will go a long way in helping Liverpool’s cause. Sometimes it is that easy.
The same will be true for the return of Jordan Henderson.
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The captain has been missed since coming out of the dismal 2-0 defeat to Everton in February, with Klopp almost confirming the end of his season earlier this week.
Guardiola claimed this week his latest triumph with City was ‘the most difficult yet’ and there is some merit in that given the grueling and relentless nature of a condensed season undertaken in the throes of a global pandemic .
But memories of a season when City needed 98 points to get ahead of Liverpool by one must surely linger for the former Barcelona coach?
It will be the same Liverpool who will return from August, the team that won the title with a record of seven games to lose and still accumulated 99 points less than a year ago.
City – and the handful of fans who almost gathered to apologize in front of the Etihad on Tuesday night – will have their day again, but we might find that a real title challenge is on the cards again next time around. .