As Liverpool march on, Can Chelsea halt their progress with a win in the FA Cup Final?
Dave Bowler looks at the odds.
By Dave Bowler
Many will tell you that there is a world of difference between the nouveau riche and the old money, between the timeless wonder of Marilyn Monroe and the tabloid reality of Kim Kardashian. If you wanted a sporting example of that, then this week, the Champions League has provided.
The odds makers at golden-slot.com would, I’m sure, have been wiser than to bet against Real Madrid even as they were two goals adrift of Manchester City going into the final minute of their Champions League semi-final. For Real Madrid are the game’s oldest money, venerable, worldly wise and steeped in a character that insists you do not give up on the game until the whistle gives up on you.
Forged in the fire of nearly 70 years of being required to win Europe’s biggest prize every single season, if you wear that white shirt, you are required to embrace the timelessness its responsibility.
That is something that the new money of Manchester City – and PSG for that matter – cannot buy. It comes only with the years, with triumph and disaster, with the understanding of how much blood you have to sweat to achieve immortality.
Ironically, the two minute catastrophe that enveloped Manchester City in the Bernabeu is the kind of war wound the memory of which helps see you through the next battle. But it won’t feel like that when they awaken on Thursday morning. It will feel as if the world has collapsed around them.
And that sets them a major test, for their season now rests on beating Newcastle United on Sunday at the Etihad – fail to do that and they will likely end up with nothing to show for their year of toil. What should have been a relatively routine win against the yet more nouveau riche of Newcastle now carries with it all kinds of lurking dangers.
It also asks questions about their recruitment. Where at Liverpool Klopp talks about his “mentality monsters”, where are they at the Etihad? Where Liverpool have four real goalscorers, City don’t have a centre-forward.
Liverpool have giants at centre-back and in defensive midfield, where City are prone to frailty. While Manchester City might be capable of greater heights and can play even more beautiful football, they don’t have Liverpool’s ability to get it over the line, somehow, even when not at their best.
Also, where Liverpool have fine players and bigger personalities, you can sometimes look at City’s individual brilliance and yet still, even now, wonder where is the next Vincent Kompany coming from?
In short, City are fabulous but, very occasionally, fallible, as they proved when they didn’t put Liverpool away at the Etihad a few weeks ago when the opportunity was there. But Liverpool would not yield. They are not invulnerable, for even they are human, but they are very, very close.
Where does this week’s European football leave the state of their bid for the unprecedented quadruple? I still think they’ll be one short, but I’m inclined to think now that it will be a different one they miss out on than I had previously thought.
After that disappointment in Madrid, if City do reel off the four straight wins they will need to beat Liverpool to the punch, it will be a monumental achievement and one that might prove to be the ‘Great Leap Forward’ they need ahead of next season.
I think they might just come up short though, giving Liverpool the Premier League title and the chance to celebrate winning it at last after Covid denied them the opportunity a couple of years ago.
In the end though, it might not be the might of Manchester or Madrid that denies them the clean sweep of all four trophies. If they were to leapfrog City this weekend, the focus on that and then the Champions League final might just be enough to see them slip up against a Chelsea side with only one game left that matters this term – the FA Cup final.
Dave Bowler is the author of “The Magic of the Cup 1973/74”, telling the story of Liverpool’s FA Cup win in 1974. Available here: https://www.curtis-sport.com/books –
Follow the magic of the cup on Twitter: @MagicOfFACup