April 27th 2014 is a date that has gone down in Premier League folklore. Its events are burned into our retinas. Its highlights – should you not be of a Liverpool persuasion – has since been memed more times than a piano-playing cat.
It was on this sunny afternoon that Jose Mourinho brought his Chelsea team up to Merseyside with the devout intention of spoiling a party while much more significantly – and an aspect so often over-looked with the passage of time – putting themselves firmly back into that year’s title race.
At the start of that memorable day Liverpool were on 80 points with Chelsea chasing on 75. Manchester City trailed on 74 but had a game in hand on both. After a frenetically competed fight at the top there were but a handful of games left.
At lunchtime, ahead of the 2.05pm kick-off the Liverpool supporters welcomed their team coach with a sea of red and fire. A victory here and they were surely champions in waiting. Two weeks earlier, following a highly dramatic see-saw win over Manchester City, their captain had spoken: “We don’t let this slip. We go again at Norwich”.
We all know what happened next. We all know how the Liverpool captain’s words became cruelly portentous.
What we perhaps don’t remember so sharply – again another aspect lost to time – is that later that day Manchester City then had to travel to Selhurst Park to fully capitalise on the Reds’ (sorry) slip. They did so by winning 2-0 with an early Edin Dzeko strike calming the nerves.
It is a strange quirk of fate indeed that has brought these two exact fixtures to the fore again this weekend with Liverpool once more ahead of Manchester City with mere games to spare. And considering what happened last time it is a legitimate question to ponder whether the heightened and dramatic events of 2013/14 have any relevance to the present-day title scrap?
Does the ghost of Demba Ba still haunt the fans, if not the team who are a completely different composition now to then, bar Jordan Henderson? Undoubtedly so. Liverpool fans truly believed that was going to be ‘their year’ and invested a great deal of heart and soul into the contest, particularly as the finish line neared. To have it snatched from them in such bizarre circumstances must have been gut-wrenching.
Nerves therefore will be even more spiked this Sunday, with a clear need to exorcise a dark day and very public failing. It is nerves that will manifest itself as fervour and tremendous noise. But what about if the stalemate is not broken as half-time approaches? Might the memories then come flooding back?
As for City – who incidentally have three remaining players from that time in Kompany, Silva and Aguero – any positive learned behaviour from that day is lost due to them playing first this time out. The seasoned pros might well think back and smile but more so for the squad as a whole the memory of last season’s tight 0-0 draw will be much more prominent.