When the Premier League fixtures were released in June, there was immediate dismay from the majority of Liverpool supporters.
Liverpool’s tough start left their hopes of getting off to a flyer in tatters, and their rivals had all been handed far more inviting starts to the campaign.
The Reds had to face Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester City and Chelsea in the first five games, three of which were away from home, giving understandable cause for concern.
Being out of the title reckoning within the first two months of the season was a depressing thought, but one that wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
As it has panned out, Liverpool have silenced the doubters and made a roaring start to 2016/17, picking up 16 points from a possible 21 so far. The football has been sublime at times, and the bookies have been so impressed that Jurgen Klopp’s side are now second-favourites for the Premier League title.
Liverpool have conquered what may well end up being their most daunting run of fixtures of the season, yet they are just two points adrift of current leaders Manchester City. This should fill every Reds supporter with a feeling of real belief that this could be our year.
No side looks invincible – City’s flaws have been exposed in the last week or two, having looked ominous – and the Merseysiders have matched their rivals despite a far harder opening seven matches.
If you assume Liverpool, City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea are going to make up the top-six in the Premier League this season, it is easy to see how tough the Reds have had it so far.
They have already faced three of those sides away, picking up a very promising seven points, while their rivals have had it nowhere near as tricky.
City have travelled to United and Spurs, while Chelsea have visited Arsenal, but that’s it. None of United, Arsenal or Spurs have had a genuinely tough away game yet, but only the latter have a lead on Liverpool as things stand. That is hugely telling.
Many will claim that the Reds are always better against stronger teams, and weaker against the sides they should beat, but this is something Klopp is slowly making a thing of the past.
The Reds have also only played twice at home, due to the expansion of the new Main Stand, which gives even more reason for positivity. United and Spurs have played four, while City, Arsenal and Chelsea have hosted three times.
In those couple of matches, against Leicester and Hull City, Liverpool have scored nine goals, blowing both of their opponents away and looking irresistible in front of their own fans.
Of their 31 remaining Premier League games, 17 are at Anfield, and if they can make it the fortress it has been at times in the past, Liverpool have an unbelievable chance of lifting the title next May.
2013/14 showed how crucial a formidable home record can be, with Brendan Rodgers and his gung-ho outfit winning 16 of their 19 league games at Anfield.
Similarly, 2008/09 saw Rafa Benitez’s men enjoy an unbeaten league run at home, winning 12 and drawing seven.
These were the two seasons in which Liverpool came closest to ending their much-publicised title drought, and it is no coincidence that ‘Fortress Anfield’ was in full swing both times.
Away matches take care of themselves – you invariably have to accept that you will lose the odd one, especially against a rival – but strong form makes so much difference.
United always showed that under Alex Ferguson, often going a year or more without losing at Old Trafford, while Jose Mourinho, despite being an unbearable human being, has been phenomenal at home throughout his managerial career.
The momentum it gives you is invaluable, and the more imposing you can become on your own turf, the more opponents become increasingly terrified at the prospect of facing you there.
Those aforementioned drubbings of Leicester and Hull will hopefully give Liverpool an immediate aura of invincibility at Anfield this season. Teams know they can’t simply park the bus and get a 0-0, as has so often been the case over the years.
There are 51 points on offer for Liverpool at home, at there is absolutely no reason why they can’t only drop five or six in those 17 games. Perhaps this reeks of arrogance and looking foolish later on in the campaign, but considering the Reds’ start to the season, we have a right to be getting a little giddy.
No team looks more of a devastating attacking force at present, and while Liverpool’s defensive woes must be addressed, there is no team that they should be fearful of coming to Anfield and causing a shock.
Of course, United are up next and Mourinho could do a number on Klopp, but there is no doubting who the favourites are. Deep down, Liverpool’s most bitter rivals will be quaking in their boots at the thought of being ripped to shreds on Merseyside, regardless of whether that comes to fruition.
If Liverpool can win that game, or at the very least avoid defeat, it would be another significant hurdle overcome, in what we all hope is the greatest season in the club’s post-1980s history.
Predicting a Reds title challenge in October always feels a little reckless, but they couldn’t be more in the mix if they tried. There is no genuinely great team in the division, in the mould of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, for example, and every top side is flawed. That includes Liverpool.
The visit of United on 17th October will be just the Reds’ third home game of the season, with a healthy percentage of their remaining matches taking place at Anfield.
It is at home where Klopp must make his side unbeatable, and the manager, players and fans have a huge part to play in making Anfield the stuff of nightmares for the opposition, like it was in the glory days.