Liverpool cannot trust hope. It has let them down too much recently, often at the point where the club has needed it most.
Hope offered Jurgen Klopp’s side a tantalising glimpse of the Europa League and Champions League trophy, only to turn its back on them. Hope encouraged Steven Gerrard to dedicate his entire career to Liverpool in pursuit of a Premier League win, only to satisfy the demands of Manchester City the last time the same cubs were involved in a climax such as this. Hope allows Liverpool to assume a season in which they have lost once in 36 fixtures will secure the championship.
Hope is no reassuring ally. It is fickle and insensitive.
Yet here Liverpool supporters are once more, «with hope in their hearts» as their anthem demands, with no choice but to throw themselves at its mercy, this time praying it is City cursing hope’s duplicitous promises.
Klopp’s pre-match call was typically assured, offering the impression that three more wins will still be enough to win the Premier League. His side has come too far to be dragged down by defeatism now. His message was heard, his instructions heeded as his players and those in the stands showed the same defiance.
Supporters are limited in how much they can demonstrate their enduring belief beyond waving flags with more vigour and singing songs a little louder and more often. In truth, the chants about winning the league have subsided a little over the last few weeks, City’s flawlessness ensuring there has never been any misplaced confidence here about the Premier League’s destiny.
But it is no longer Klopp’s rallying cries that keep the fires burning. Whenever this Liverpool team plays, the possibilities still seem endless.
Naby Keita’s opening goal in 15 seconds ensured this would be the evening Pep Guardiola’s hope of a favour would be immediately extinguished. It was the blueprint Klopp strike, a scurrying midfielder stealing possession, exchanging passes before neatly finishing.
Goals two and three were emblems of this season too, full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson continuing their duel to finish top of the assist charts in servicing Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
At that stage there was another, more tentative hope on The Kop — that perhaps City’s formidable goal difference advantage would be significantly reduced.
Klopp had already left out Roberto Firmino and Fabinho as a precaution ahead of the trip to Barcelona. The more Liverpool scored, the more likely others are to be given a rest. When Virgil Van Dijk was given a standing ovation for shaking off a knock, it was obvious where the second half priorities lay.
So the supporters left dreaming of Sean Dyche getting under the skin of City’s technical staff, and of Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood or — most poignantly of all — ex-Kop striker Peter Crouch becoming Anfield heroes should Burnley take a point from the champions on Sunday.
And if that does not work, they will shower compliments on former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, acknowledging his work beginning Liverpool’s restoration before Klopp started to paint Anfield’s version of the Sistine Chapel. They may even dare to believe Chris Hughton can stop City from completing a 14-match winning streak.
No matter how often hope lets you down — how lost or false it seems — it has the arrogance to presume millions will still seek and hold onto it.
For two more games, at least.
The Telegraph, London