On April 27th 2014, Liverpool sat atop the Premier League table, about to play third-placed Chelsea. Second-placed Manchester City would play away at Crystal Palace later that day.
The Reds knew that if they won or drew, the title would be in their hands with just two games left. A win would’ve briefly put Liverpool nine points clear of City, who would have two games in hand. Fans were quietly hopeful that they would end their 24 year wait for the English top flight title.
Liverpool lost that game 2-0. Steven Gerrard’s slip allowed Demba Ba to slide home before Willian made sure of the points in second half stoppage time. It went down as one of the most famous games in the history of the Premier League.
Fast forward just 13 days short of five years. Liverpool once again sit atop the Premier League table, though City are just two points behind with a game in hand this time.
This weekend, Liverpool face Chelsea at Anfield once again. This year, Liverpool actually have more points at the time of the Chelsea clash than they did in 2014, despite having played two games less. Incredibly, Manchester City are also away to Crystal Palace on the same day again yet will play before the Reds this year.
Every team to have accumulated 80 points or more after 33 games has gone on to win the title, but that will change this year. That is testament to the quality of both Liverpool and Manchester City, who are streaks ahead of the rest in the Premier League this season.
As they did in 2014, fans believe that this could be Liverpool’s year. The Blues are Liverpool’s only remaining top six opponents, while Manchester City still have to face Spurs and Manchester United.
If the Reds can overcome Chelsea, the pressure would firmly be on Manchester City’s shoulders. First however, Liverpool must overcome the demons of that clash five years ago.
There are six players who played in 2014 who could also play on Sunday.
Simon Mignolet and Cesar Azpilicueta started the game and remain at Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. Daniel Sturridge entered the game as a substitute for Liverpool, while Gary Cahill and Willian did the same for Chelsea. The other player who could feature this week is Mohamed Salah, who started for Chelsea in 2014, but is set to appear for Liverpool this time.
Of these six, only Azpilicueta, Willian and Salah can expect to start. Sturridge and Mignolet will likely be on the bench, with Cahill unlikely to feature at all having fallen down the pecking order in the Blues’ defence.
Another four current Chelsea players were at the club at the time but didn’t make the matchday squad. Eden Hazard and David Luiz were both rested, while Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were yet to make a name for themselves having graduated from the club’s academy.
Jordan Henderson is the only other current Liverpool player to have been at the club in 2014, but the Englishman missed out through suspension after being sent off against Manchester City two games earlier.
Liverpool were at almost full strength, missing only Jordan Henderson and Victor Moses from those who could have expected to feature. Moses was ineligible as he was on loan at the Reds from Chelsea.
Simon Mignolet lined up in goal, behind a back four of Jon Flanagan, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson. Steven Gerrard lined up in midfield alongside Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, with Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez forming the attacking axis of the side.
Chelsea, likely with both eyes on the Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid that they’d play three days later (they went on to lose, 3-1 in the second leg and on aggregate), fielded a largely second string side.
41-year-old Mark Schwarzer lined up in goal in the absence of the injured Petr Cech, protected by a four man defence consisting of Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole at full back, and Branislav Ivanovic and Tomas Kalas at centre half. Kalas was making his Premier League debut, while Ivanovic of course was more accustomed to playing at right back.
The Blues deployed a defensive midfield setup, with Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel lying deep behind Andre Schurrle, Frank Lampard and Mohamed Salah. Demba Ba lined up as the lone striker.
27th April 2014. 2pm.
With a draw enough to keep the fate of the Premier League title still in Liverpool’s hands, they began the game at a trademark high pace but settled as they met a wall of Blue shirts set on counter-attacking.
We all know what happened and indeed many details of how it happened. The first half was an utterly dour affair until stoppage time. Liverpool had dominated possession, though the only chance of note had fallen to Chelsea’s Ashley Cole, whose effort from range was beaten away by Mignolet.
As the first half seemingly was petering to an end, the Reds played the ball around at the back. Mamadou Sakho rolled a simple ball to Gerrard in the middle, who inexplicably let the ball roll under his foot and then slipped. Demba Ba pounced and took the ball forward and scored to stun Anfield.
All of a sudden, Liverpool had nothing to fall back on. Despite controlling the play of the game up to the midway point, they went in behind and were handing over control of the Premier League title to Manchester City. Liverpool had to score, and they played like it in the second half.
They enjoyed even more possession than in the first half, but their intensity was much higher. Mark Schwarzer was called into action to stop efforts from Joe Allen and Luis Suarez, while Steven Gerrard peppered the Australian with desperate long range efforts.
A half-hearted penalty appeal was waved away as Tomas Kalas barged Raheem Sterling off the ball, and the desperation in Anfield was almost unbearable as the game drew nearer to 90 minutes, the introduction of former Blue Daniel Sturridge ineffective as the Blue wall held firm.
In the fourth minute of injury time and with the game almost up, Chelsea subs Willian and Fernando Torres (the latter of which was booed vehemently following his introduction to the match), broke clear of the absent Liverpool defence. Torres knocked the ball round Simon Mignolet for Willian to walk into the empty net. 2-0, the game was won.
The Reds ended the game with 73% possession and 26 shots, including eight on target. Chelsea meanwhile had 11 shots, with four on target. It was a vintage Mourinho display, his side outplayed but ahead on the one statistic that mattered.
Later that day, Manchester City won 2-0 at Crystal Palace to move within three points of Liverpool with a game in hand and a significantly superior goal difference.
City won that game in hand 3-2 at Everton to move top, before Liverpool had a chance to apply pressure to City a few days later.
The Reds raced into a 3-0 lead away at Crystal Palace, with commentators remarking that the Reds could go some way to closing the goal difference deficit. Instead, they capitulated and drew 3-3.
City won their remaining two games to win the Premier League by two points. Though the capitulation at Palace was a more biopic way to lose the title, the reality is that they would have finished second even if they had held on for victory.
Liverpool lost the Premier League title at home to Chelsea. Steven Gerrard has admitted that his slip will scar him for life.
The Reds have a chance to banish the demons of this fixture on Sunday. Fasten your seatbelts, Anfield.