How would Liverpool cope with the pressure? It was the question leading every story as an ever lengthening win streak edged them closer to rejoining the title race, replacing fading Arsenal in the top three and making Champions League qualification, once the primary goal, seem a mere formality. Having handled the pressure to retake the top of the table, the question then became how they would deal with the pressure of being favourites.
How would players who mostly had never been involved in such a challenge deal with the pressure of being favourites for a trophy no side that had finished worse than third the year before had ever won? So far at least, Simon Mignolet thinks they've dealt with it just fine, thank you very much—and all while the supposedly more experienced title challengers around them have found themselves stumbling against weaker opposition.
"There are no signs of nerves," said the goalkeeper. "There is no point making ourselves nervous before a match. We take each game as it comes and just focus on the objective. All we can do is our best. It's not about imagining winning the title, it's about doing it on the pitch. Nobody is thinking about what might happen on May 11, we're just preparing ourselves for Chelsea. We know it's up to us. We need to look at ourselves, it's not about looking at the opposition."
It's become a recurring theme for this Liverpool side. Where others worry about mind games and nullifying the opposition, Liverpool look to keep their own house in order and to then go out and impose themselves on their opponents. It's an approach that hasn't been without its share of nervy moments, but in the end this is a side that has shown great mental strength and pulled through any time the result has begun to seem in doubt.
"Three points was all that mattered at Norwich," insisted Mignolet, and it's a point fans of any side aspiring to win titles will have become well acquainted with. "Before the game the manager told us that Chelsea's defeat was a warning sign—that it showed what can happen in the Premier League against any team. We've seen with the points Chelsea and City have dropped recently that every single game in this league is tough.
"Norwich are fighting relegation and made it difficult for us but we managed to get through it. We did the job and now we move on and look forward to another big game at home against Chelsea. We are an attacking team and to have scored 96 goals in the league already is a brilliant amount. Hopefully we can keep that going over the final three matches and finish the season strongly."
No mind games. Just attacking football. And three cup finals to go.