It's unprecedented for a side in England to go from mid-table to winning the title in the span of a single year. Conventional wisdom says you need time to build and that players need to experience the pressure that comes with such a title challenge before they're ready to win one. Sat second and with nearly everybody fit, Liverpool seem positioned to at least challenge those widely held beliefs, and Daniel Agger insists the players are up for it mentally.
"When you play for Liverpool Football Club, there is always pressure and that won’t change between now and the end of the season," said Agger in an interview with the Liverpool Echo as the Danish defender discussed the club's unexpected but very real title challenge. "Part of playing for this club is being able to handle that pressure. I think the players here have proved over the course of this season that they are more than capable of doing that.
"We have had some great results and there have been a few times when we have been all the way up there at the top. We are in a good position but we are only in March. There is still a long way to go and a lot of points to play for. We haven’t achieved anything yet and we need to keep going over the final 10 games. We have some big games against teams close to us in the table. They are games we have to win."
Liverpool remain outsiders, albeit well positioned ones, with Chelsea currently grinding out results and sitting seven points clear but having played a game more. Win against United on Sunday, and that gap shrinks back to four points. Win against Chelsea when the two sides face off at Anfield on April 27th, and Liverpool would only need to earn one more point than Chelsea in eight other remaining games to capture the title on goal differential.
Similar math surrounds Manchester City, currently in fourth but having played two fewer matches than Liverpool and three fewer than Chelsea. All told it means Liverpool aren't in control of their on destiny—and a side not in control of its destiny is almost by definition going to be the underdog in any race. Still, if Liverpool can handle the pressure and keep performing as they have in recent weeks, they will have a very good shot.
Now they just need to prove they really can handle the pressure. The signs at least are good: a must-win on the road against Southampton; the sort of nervy narrow victories any title winning side needs against Fulham and Swansea; top performances against Everton and Arsenal in the league. They get one more chance to prove they can handle it on the weekend—and, if they pass the test, nine more following it.
If they can continue to deliver under the pressure as they have so far and as Daniel Agger believes the squad is capable of, it could be a special end to the season, no matter quite how the final table shakes out.