Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Scousers will be out in droves
It has been a mostly discouraging nine years on Merseyside.
Yes, Liverpool Football Club's winning of the 2006 FA Cup can perhaps reduce by a year the period of tribulation, but domestic cup runs and mid-table finishes are not what the biggest institutions in football are supposed to be about.
It was in the spring of 2005 that Liverpool last claimed an honour worthy of their stature, beating AC Milan on penalties to win a memorable Champions League final in Istanbul.
But not since then has there been much to celebrate; not since then have the Anfield faithful felt as justified in their support, in their hard-won tradition of entitlement as they do now -- as they will on Sunday, when Manchester City pay a visit to the famous old ground.
It's quite likely that the showdown with City will determine the destination of this season's Premier League title. And if so, that means Liverpool are potentially a single victory removed from a four-match celebration tour to wrap up the schedule.
They can't win the championship by taking all three points on Sunday, but they can deliver a crucial blow in the battle against their most serious opponent.
Presently atop the table with 74 points -- two clear of Chelsea and four above City, who have two matches in hand -- the Reds will also be marking the Hillsborough stadium disaster prior to kick-off, and if they weren't already capable of beating the 2012 champions their fans will surely provide the extra gear they require.
"We will unleash the supporters this weekend," manager Brendan Rodgers told the club's official website on Friday. "I sense a real nostalgia about the place at the moment. There's a real feel of the old Liverpool, and I'll always respect that. But it's important that it helps drive us forward in the future as a motivation rather than a hindrance."
If the club was ever encumbered by the past glories of a generation long since gone grey, it has, at least for the time being, put those memories to the side in full embrace of a very exciting present.
Liverpool play the best football in England, and under Rodgers they have only improved throughout the campaign.
A nine-match winning streak has seen the 18-time champions vault into contention, and not since their final match of 2013 have they tasted defeat in the Premier League.
Of course, they've not faced a situation quite like this.
City, which beat the Reds on Boxing Day, are on a seven-match unbeaten run, themselves, and with the Capital One Cup secured in the trophy cabinet their final piece of business is to complete a domestic double.
A win at Anfield would put them in the driver's seat with a month remaining, but winning at Anfield is not something any of the Premier League's top seven have been able to do this term.
In many ways City's title charge will be driven by individuals, by Aguero, naturally, but also by defender Vincent Kompany, midfielder Kolo Toure and playmaker David Silva -- each of whom will be relied upon to win their individual match-ups down the stretch.
Liverpool's, meanwhile, is a rather more collective approach, envisioned and put in to practice by Rodgers and executed by a group of players who have come to thrive in his system.
"We're a club that has a strong identity and a strong football philosophy of how we want to work," Rodgers remarked, adding, "That's something we're very proud of and hope to cultivate and grow."
They're on the right track. And win or lose on Sunday it's likely they'll be in similarly promising positions going forward.
Those nine-year waits are a thing of the past.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2014 C5
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