'Liverpool thrash Leicester to confirm long wait for title is coming to an end'

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates his goal for Liverpool against Leicester City
Trent Alexander-Arnold made two assists and scored one in Liverpool's thumping win over Leicester, to go 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League table

Liverpool will not say it - there have been too many near misses and false dawns in the 30 years since their last title win to place temptation in fate's path.

The lockdown started moments after Jurgen Klopp's side produced arguably their finest performance of the season to overwhelm their nearest challengers Leicester City to go 13 points clear in the Premier League with a game in hand.

Liverpool's players, perfectly understandably, were right on title message: nothing taken for granted; long way to go; race not over.

If they will not say it, then others will. And it can be said with some certainty after the manner in which the Reds produced a 4-0 win that even then did not do justice to their superiority.

This was the night when it became clear that the title race is now surely over.

Liverpool's rivals, including reigning champions Manchester City, will continue to fight the brave fight - but every measure, and the sheer relentlessness of Klopp's side, says they are now in a fight for second place.

It would take a collapse of unthinkable proportions from a Liverpool team who have forgotten how to lose league games, and are at the peak of their powers, to throw this away now.

The Queen Mother's famous horse Devon Loch, who inexplicably fell within sight of the winning line in the 1956 Grand National, would be wiped from the history books as the worst finisher if the Reds made a hash of this.

Klopp, reflecting on that huge advantage, said: "It doesn't sound like anything has been decided to my ears. We are just trying everything we can do to be ready for our next games."

Klopp delighted after 'very important' win

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers was never going to give up but his message was that of a realist. "They are going to be very hard to stop. They are a fantastic team, confidence is high," he said.

"They have become winners and haven't lost many games in the past 18 months. To lose the games they would have to do - they now have got enough players, experience and quality to get the job done."

And before you even get started on the imperious, swaggering nature of Liverpool's performances, perfectly illustrated by this demolition of the Foxes, a glance at the statistics shows this is a side that are champions-in-waiting.

Liverpool have that 13-point advantage with a game in hand on Leicester. They will still be 11 points clear with a game in hand if Manchester City are victorious at Wolves on Friday (19:45 GMT kick-off).

This means the Reds, who have lost one league game in 2019 and are on a 34-game unbeaten run in the division, now probably need to lose four of their last 20 in this campaign. And that is factoring in that their challengers must keep winning all of their matches, a tough assignment when both Manchester City and Leicester have not come within touching distance of Liverpool's consistency this season.

This was the biggest margin of victory in a meeting between teams starting the day in the top two positions since then leaders Manchester City won 6-1 at Manchester United in October 2011 - and the margin here could have been even wider.

Liverpool now have the joint-highest lead any team has had on Boxing Day in Premier League history - on a par with Manchester United's advantage in 1993-94, when they went on to become champions.

Leicester lacked patience - Rodgers

This is all bolstering the seemingly unbreakable confidence of a team that have looked on a mission from day one of the campaign, determined to make up for the disappointment, at least in the Premier League context, of last season.

Liverpool did not lose the title last season. Manchester City won it. There were no questions about the Reds' mental strength. They were simply undone by a superb team that put together 14 successive wins to retain their crown.

And yet Liverpool are on a different level this season, untouchable in pursuit of that elusive title.

The Champions League win set the platform and there has been a sense all season that they will end that long wait to get back on their domestic perch for the first time since 1990.

Leicester did their best to test Liverpool's nerve with a pre-match display of pyrotechnics and noise plucked straight from a Guns N' Roses concert.

The effect? Nil. Not even a glancing blow.

Liverpool were all over the hosts from the start and the star of the show was right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who created two goals for Roberto Firmino and scored himself with a rasping drive. The 21-year-old England international has now assisted eight in the league and 10 in all competitions this season.

This was flagged up as Liverpool's biggest away test away so far - but they were barely in trouble and hugely in control. It was a chilling message to anyone with ideas of toppling them.

This was the night the league leaders confirmed - if there were any doubts - that the long wait for the title will surely end at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Liverpool's win was that of Premier League champions-elect.


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