The last meeting with Manchester United has been widely lauded as the turning point in Liverpool's season, even though they found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 result at Old Trafford. With a new system and renewed attacking promise, the visitors forced David De Gea into a man of the match performance, and on the heels of an unceremonious exit from the Champions League, it was a sliver of hope in a season that had previously failed to provide much in the way of inspiration.
That loss meant Liverpool were ten points behind their rivals, who were alone in third and looking as though they'd finally found a way to return to winning ways after the bottom fell out in the 2013-2014 season. They're not quite so comfortable now, however, and as unlikely as it seemed on that day, Liverpool are now in control of their Champions League destiny, with a win on Sunday securing a spot in the top four for the first time since August.
A striking reality that underlines the accomplishments of a resurgent squad since that day, and one that, according to Adam Lallana, they are ready to embrace:
"Psychologically for us it is massive. If we win we go above United and we get one foot into the top four. We are just focused on being consistent, keeping clean sheets and winning football matches. We will be focusing on ourselves on Sunday, that's what we have been doing, and confidence is high. We are very confident we can get the victory.
"We were struggling at the beginning of the season, but in the last few months we have definitely turned a corner. There are still another eight games after and there is going to be twists and turns constantly I'm sure. Tottenham and Southampton are still in and around the fight as well so they are going to be wanting to pick up points to make it three teams out of six trying to get in the top four. It is exciting for the neutral and I'm sure it will go down to the wire."
The former Southampton captain has long been insistent that Liverpool were on their way to bigger and better things, first asserting as much back in December after their 2-2 draw with Arsenal. At that time it wasn't yet evident how Brendan Rodgers' changes would unfold, but Lallana--a veteran of multiple promotion campaigns and no stranger to sides that have had to fight their way through difficult patches--was among those most vocal about Liverpool's chances at righting the ship.
Fitting, then, that he's had a large part to play in Liverpool's surge through 2015. Injury derailed his progress briefly, but he has become one of Rodgers' trusted charges, and one whose versatility and quality are enough to secure him a starting berth in the preferred eleven. Like so many others, there's no doubt he has plenty of room for growth and development, but through a challenging season on the whole, he has been among their most consistent performers when fit, and he'll have a large part to play as they continue their unlikely run toward Champions League qualification.