Liverpool fans will have every reason to feel positive ahead of their crunch clash with Tottenham as Jurgen Klopp’s side chase an incredible quadruple. If anything, the encounter will show just how far the Reds have come since a dark day in their history nearly five years ago.
In October 2017, the Merseyside outfit travelled to Wembley – Spurs’ temporary home while their new stadium was being constructed – for an early litmus test on where the title contenders were in terms of their ability. Only one would be left feeling confident about their chances – the other was Liverpool, who succumbed to a morale-damaging 4-1 defeat.
Not helped by a nightmare 31-minute display from Dejan Lovren, Klopp’s men were two goals down inside 12 minutes after goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. Mohamed Salah got one back for the visitors and the German boss responded by hooking Lovren on the half-hour mark, sending on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in his place. But Dele Alli restored the two-goal cushion not long after and Kane rounded off a convincing victory with a fourth in the second half.
The result left Liverpool ninth in the Premier League and with their worst defensive record at that stage in the season for over 50 years. What was more damning, however, was the 12-point gap to leaders Manchester City and Klopp was feeling the heat.
READ MORE: Salah needs major Liverpool improvement to meet target
Former Liverpool and Spurs ace Jamie Redknapp, writing in the Daily Mail, later described the standard of defending as “comedic”. Noticeably downcast and frustrated, Klopp went through the topics of profligacy, defensive mistakes and his players not following instructions in his post-match interview. “We had our chances, scored one, and the game was on the table,” he said. “Being down one goal at Tottenham, you can fix it. The third is down to completely not concentrating off the ball. Four mistakes from us. It is my responsibility.”
Four months later, Liverpool sold Philippe Coutinho for a club-record £142m fee and acquired Virgil van Dijk from Southampton to help solve their defensive issues, before splashing out again in the summer to capture Alisson Becker from Roma. In the space of nine months, Liverpool went from a leaky, careless attacking side to deadly and efficient title contenders – and their defeat to Spurs was arguably the catalyst for convincing Klopp to pull the trigger on both signings.
Such a gloomy setting is difficult to imagine now at Anfield, such is the general air of jubilation around Merseyside. Liverpool had shipped 16 goals in nine games when they faced Tottenham on that miserable day in the capital. But after 34 games in the current campaign they have only conceded 22 times, pointing to the impact of Klopp’s coaching and signings.
Liverpool boss Klopp’s classy touch after Villarreal win
Van Dijk details Jurgen Klopp’s half-time Villarreal message
Liverpool have 3 players Monaco might accept in Tchouameni swap deal
They are comfortably one of the most lethal teams in Europe, as established by their Carabao Cup triumph, reaching the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League, and their battle with Man City going down to the wire for the Premier League title.
As a contrast, Spurs are undergoing something of a Kloppian transformation under Antonio Conte. The north London side are still without a trophy since their League Cup triumph in 2008 and are battling just to finish inside the top four.
In this clash, Liverpool are sure-fire favourites to breeze their way to victory and reclaim top spot in the Premier League, at least for a few hours. There is a view that things could have taken an entirely different turn after Liverpool’s poor start to the season under Klopp and their humbling at Wembley.
But with the quadruple within their grasp and Klopp penning a new deal, the Reds will just be glad that they chose to be patient.