The Reds coach might have won the Premier League and Champions League while in charge at Anfield but the club’s late-season surge has been awesome
How could anyone have imagined that Liverpool would have a happy ending to this season?
Jurgen Klopp says he could write a book about this campaign – “and it would be a depressing one too,” he admitted this week – but it looks as if he’ll be sporting one of his trademark beaming smiles come Sunday evening.
The rescue mission is almost complete
Liverpool has one game remaining in their quest for Champions League qualification. After all the setbacks and all the criticism, the Reds find themselves here, back in form, and in control of their destiny.
In the top four of the Premier League for the first time since mid-February, the Reds won 3-0 at Burnley on Wednesday. Liverpool is playing with the kind of grit and determination we’ve come to expect from a Klopp team, from a Liverpool team.
They just need one more win against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Sunday, in front of 10,000 fans, to finish their job. Though anything can happen, expect them to finish the job.
After the loss against Fulham on March 7, Liverpool looked all but doomed. They were behind Leicester in the table, 10 points back, and wondering when the fall would stop. Even their goal difference was worse. They were damaged goods, out of sorts, and out of luck.
Not any more. Bit by bit, the 2019-20 champions have clawed their way back. Seven wins and two draws is title-winning form. And even those two draws should have been wins.
Boy, are they digging in? Boy, are they fighting. The ‘mentality giants’ tag has been questioned this season, but here they are, biting down on their gumshield and pushing through the pain. After 37 Premier League slugfests, they are 90 minutes from salvation.
Who better to exemplify that tenacity and courage than Nat Phillips, a player who should have been playing in the Championship but has instead targeted the Champions League? They call him the Bolton Baresi. Anfield’s latest cult hero.
Liverpool is grateful that Phillips’ move to Swansea fell through last year and grateful he has shown his worth in a time of crisis. Phillips didn’t make his Premier League debut until October, but he has proven his value since then.
Whether at Liverpool or elsewhere, he has shown he belongs at this level.
Floundering around Turf Moor, he was doing what he does best: seeing the ball, heading it, and winning duel after duel with Chris Wood. Nineteen in total, 13 aerial. Two, three, and nine clearances, two off his own goalline.
There was a goal, too. His first in professional football, bulleted home at the back post from Sadio Mane’s cross. The smiles said it all, from Phillips and from his teammates. A special moment, for the 24-year-old. There are a few more popular characters in this Reds dressing room.
This is going to be one of Klopp’s “greatest achievements ever” as a manager. Many will scoff at that claim, but you can see what he means. These challenges this season have tested even the strongest minds.
It would be criminal if Liverpool were to give up control now, surely? After seizing the initiative, shouldn’t they continue to battle and fight for it?
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