Liverpool on course for Premier League's title
Twenty five years on from the Hillsborough disaster and with all the raw emotions surrounding Anfield this week, it’s impossible to look beyond Liverpool as the next English Premier League (EPL) champions.
While the lives of 96 football fans killed in a stadium crush in 1989 must never be trivialised by the outcome of a few games, the spirit evoked from that fateful day can’t be underestimated.
And the players will know that no tribute will be more fitting than the club ending their 24-year wait for league honours on this most sombre of occasions.
The club’s success would also ultimately push the case for answers, with justice for the dead, initially blamed for their own demise, having been slow in coming even as yet more inquests get under way.
Brendon Rodgers’ men are currently two points clear of Chelsea with four games remaining: away to Norwich City, at home to Chelsea, away to Crystal Palace and at home to Newcastle United.
Winning all four games would guarantee them the title and take them to a more than symbolic 89 points — the year the Hillsborough Disaster occurred.
But with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea just two points behind and also with four games remaining — at home to Sunderland, away to Liverpool, at home to Norwich City and away to Cardiff City — there is absolutely no room for error.
Everything now appears to centre on that decisive game at home to Chelsea on April 27.
But, while the Londoners would usually be regarded as favourites for such a clash, an Anfield charged by the Hillsborough factor and a Liverpool team currently on a run of 10 wins in a row puts the momentum firmly with the Merseysiders.
Then there is Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City — the team Liverpool beat so dramatically 3-2 at home on Sunday. Seven points behind leaders Liverpool in third position with six games remaining — thanks to two games in hand — the Blues could still steal the title.
City are at home to Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, away to Crystal Palace and Everton, and at home to Aston Villa and West Ham United.
With a possible 18 points to accrue from their remaining six games, City can finish on a maximum 88 points, enough to win the league by a point even if Chelsea win all their remaining four games. They will still fall one short of Liverpool, however, if the Reds continue on their winning run and win all of their remaining four games.
The EPL run-in couldn’t be closer but, with so much surrounding Liverpool’s title bid this year, they are the clear champions-elect. While Chelsea will attempt to spoil the party at Anfield, Liverpool’s real enemy is within. Self-doubt and the pressure to honour their supporters amid such an occasion could still get the better of them.