There’s still a lot of football left to be played.
The Premier League title may be done and dusted, but for Liverpool it feels all about the Champions League now – a competition with which they have a mythical relationship. And yet, they certainly cannot forget about the league.
It would be a mistake to think that the top four race is over. Manchester United, perhaps are all but guaranteed a top four spot, but the other three teams in the race for the final two places can’t relax. If Tottenham beat Chelsea on Sunday, that race will likely be over. If the result goes the other way, the battle will continue.
That’s why Liverpool can’t just focus on dumping Manchester City out of the Champions League over the next two weeks: they have to think about their participation in that competition next season, too.
Next weekend sees the Reds travel to Goodison Park to face Everton in the Merseyside derby in between the two legs of their European quarter final, and this week they travel to Selhurst Park, the scene of arguably Liverpool’s most famous – and most overstated – capitulation.
“Crystanbul” was a collapse by a Liverpool side aiming to win the title, but it’s not where they lost the title. The title was lost days earlier when the Reds lost to Chelsea – throwing away a three goal lead against Palace didn’t cost them the title because a win wasn’t enough: they needed a margin of victory in the double figures to claw back Manchester City’s goal difference lead.
What it did do, however, was give Palace their own myth. It gave them the belief that they could beat Liverpool – something they’ve kept with them: they’re now something of a bogey team.
The Reds have lost four of their last seven Premier League games against the Palace, and this season’s 1-0 victory at Anfield came at the expense of an Eagles side managed by Frank de Boer and in the middle of the worst to a season in Premier League history. Since then, though, we’ve seen how much of a struggle Palace away has been for the top six teams – Arsenal and Manchester United scraped 3-2 wins, whilst Manchester City could only manage a draw thanks to a last-minute penalty save.
The week after an international break is often a strange one. Players come back from the break in a different mindset, they’ve played with different players, and it takes a while to get their head back into the club game again. With one eye understandably fixed on Wednesday night’s Champions League quarter final first leg, Liverpool could be there for the taking by a Palace side who have only one thing to worry about, and that’s getting points to stay in the division.
There’s still a lot of football to be played in this Premier League season. The battle for the top four isn’t over, and the fight against relegation will likely rumble on into the final weeks. This weekend, both battles at opposite ends of the table will collide. But just after an international break, with one eye on a massive Champions League tie, and travelling to a team which believes it’s Jurgen Klopp’s bogey team, will Liverpool slip up?