By the time May turns into June, Liverpool could end up having won the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League; basically, each of the four trophies on offer every season. This is a feat that no club, in any of the European leagues, has ever managed. While many teams have won a plethora of titles in a calendar year, a true quadruple—the league, the European Cup, and the league and federation knockout tournaments—remains elusive. Teams have won trebles of all possible permutation, but never all four.
This is so for a reason. To win the quadruple, a team has to sustain a run of impeccable form over nine months, avoid disruptive injuries, and play over sixty games. In light of this, Liverpool have already achieved some remarkable firsts. On 28 May, when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris, the Reds would have played all 63 games on offer since when the season began. Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has already become the first coach to lead a team into the finals of all three knockout tournaments on offer in a season. Liverpool won one of these, the Carabao Cup, in February, defeating Chelsea. This Saturday, they face Chelsea again in the FA Cup final. After that, Real await.
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A year is a long time in club football. Just ask Liverpool. They may be attempting a nearly impossible feat right now, but exactly a year ago, the Merseyside club were scrapping to get into the top four and qualify for the Champions League. On 8 May 2021, Liverpool were 7th in the Premier League, and in danger of scripting the worst title defence in English top flight history. In a season hobbled by an injury crisis and covid infections, the Reds were fielding youth team players or midfielders in defence, playing without any coherence and losing or drawing most weeks. Two 1-1 draws in end-April had seriously dented the club’s chances of playing in the Champions League. The equation was clear. The Reds had to win each of their five remaining league games, while hoping that either Leicester or Chelsea above them slipped up.
On the 8th, Liverpool won 2-0 against Southampton courtesy of goals from Sadio Mané and midfielder Thiago Alcãntara. The next game boosted confidence some more after Liverpool put Manchester United to the sword in Old Trafford, winning 4-2. They were still 5th in the table, but at least things were looking up. And then came an away game at West Brom on 16 May, one that would define Liverpool’s season. West Brom had already been relegated by then, and were playing for their pride. They certainly gave Liverpool a game, scoring first and holding the Reds at bay till the end of regulation time. Liverpool were desperate to break down the West Brom defence, the looming draw feeling like a defeat. And then something remarkable happened.
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In the 5th minute of added time, Liverpool won a corner. Desperate for victory, goalkeeper Alisson comes to the West Brom penalty box. Trent Alexander-Arnold swings in the corner, and as West Brom defenders are occupied with Liverpool’s outfield players, Alisson jumps, and with a twist of his neck muscles, loops the ball into the goal. Cue bedlam. In all of Liverpool’s history since 1892, Alisson became the first goalkeeper ever to score a competitive goal for the club. In a season where he’d lost his father to a tragic drowning accident and couldn’t attend the funeral in Brazil due to covid restrictions, it provided for a miraculous dénouement. It was also the goal that rescued Liverpool’s season—the Reds would finish third—leading to the position they are in now. When Liverpool play Real Madrid in the club’s third Champions League final in four years, we should remember that such a thing wouldn’t have been possible without Alisson’s dramatic goal. This wildcard unpredictability is what makes football such a fascinating game.
There is a fair chance that Liverpool may yet end the season with just the Carabao Cup. Right now, the Premier League is Manchester City’s to lose. Liverpool have given it an almighty go by clawing back a 14 point difference, but right now all they can do is to win the remaining games and hoe City slip up. Meanwhile, Chelsea await on Saturday, keen to save their own deeply troubled season by winning the FA Cup and getting a measure of revenge for Liverpool’s league cup win. Finally, there’s Real Madrid, serial Champions League winners with an almost magical hold on the competition, seeking to win it for the 14th time.
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Of course, Liverpool are no slouches when it comes to European Cup history. They’ll be aiming to win it for the 7th time and go joint second on all-time wins with AC Milan. Just like in all the other competitions, Liverpool have not put a foot wrong in Champions League. They’ve scored 30 goals, won 10 games, lost one and drawn one in a display of great power and nous. A side that’s renowned for its intense playing style and a ferocious counter-press to win back the ball or force mistakes, they have a remarkable 35.9% successful pressures in the Champions League (for Madrid it’s 26%, for semi-finalists City 29%). On the other hand, Madrid have created 3.39 goal chances every 90 minutes to Liverpool’s 3.08. As the former showed against Manchester City in the semi-finals, they can just turn it on without playing particularly well. This “will to win” can never be fully quantified by statistics, just as it cannot quantify Alisson’s magnificent goal.
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