The finest of margins. It is an expression we’ve heard a lot this season. It’s an expression we’ve lived.
Liverpool left the Etihad having lost the tie 2-1 after a ball was cleared off the line by millimeters. As things stand, those millimeters could be the difference between light blue and red ribbons on the Premier League trophy at the end of the season. The difference between very, very good, and great.
Manchester City, too, have suffered the cruelty of a narrow defeat. A single VAR ruling dashed their hopes of an historic quadruple. Even if they win a treble, the biggest prize was taken away from them, from a domestic rival, no less (and for the second year running). Fine margins indeed.
With six (hopefully seven) matches remaining, this Liverpool side could write itself into the books as one of the greatest ever. The Premier League and Champions League double is on. They could pip City, the Centurians, to the title with the second-highest point tally ever. They could see off Lionel Messi and Barcelona at Anfield, enter the final as favorites, and lift Ol’ Big Ears. The double is on, even if it’s not completely in our hands.
It’s terrifying to say and to think about, because it’s so tantilizingly close. And because both challenges are so precarious.
Liverpool don’t even have to do anything particularly “wrong” to come up short. They could rise to all the challenges ahead of them, and still not bring home the goods. The Reds could win out in the league, only to be pipped to the title. Liverpool could lose to Barcelona on away goals or penalties. Both could be considered “fine margins,” that just happened to go against us in this case. We could get through Barcelona and lose in the final again. Perhaps Salah stays healthy, but this time Jan Vertonghen successfully removes Roberto Firmino’s eye. These things happen.
We used to joke about Liverpool not doing things “the easy way.” Why beat AC Milan outright when you can instead have one of the greatest comebacks ever?
The challenges we face ahead of us are also not “the easy way.” But unlike past Liverpool vintages, which had to come back from putting themselves in bad situations, this team is in the best possible position (other than choosing this super-funded Manchester City team to come up against).
However, there would be something poetic about it. If Liverpool can win the league, perhaps it should be in one of the greatest campaigns ever, especially after watching other great squads come up just short. If Liverpool can keep getting to Champions League finals as underdogs, perhaps they deserve to get there as the favorites for once.
Of course there are no Fates, and nothing in football is truly “deserved.” If Liverpool can lift one or two trophies this season, it will be hard earned.
And equally, if City win the league, or any of the other three teams win the Champions League, we’ll make them earn it.