That’s all that might be separating Liverpool and perhaps the greatest feat in the history of club soccer.
The “quadruple” — that seemingly mythical achievement of winning all four major trophies in one season — is the target all the top teams in England set out to attain at the start of each season.
But given the strains on the squad and the vagaries of fortune and injuries, the idea of actually capturing the Champions League, the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup is typically written off before it’s even started.
Indeed, at the start of this season, British bookmakers were offering odds of 3,000-1 for Liverpool to complete the quadruple.
Now, the odds are 8-1. It really might be on.
Already League Cup winners after beating Chelsea on penalties in the final in February, Liverpool is through to the final of the FA Cup — where it will again face Chelsea — and is a big favorite to get to the final of the Champions League after a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the first leg of the semifinals on Wednesday.
The latest hard-fought Premier League title race with Manchester City could hardly be tighter, with Liverpool a point behind in second place with five games remaining.
No wonder the levels of excitement around Liverpool’s class of 2021-22 are heading into overdrive.
“I don’t want to stop the emotions or people getting carried away, I have no problem with that at all,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said.
“I know our people long enough, they are realistic as well, but they are always ready to dream when there is a little chance to dream.”
Well, it’s no longer a dream. Amazingly, it’s a realistic possibility.
Winning the European Cup, the domestic league and the two domestic cup competitions is something no team in the top five leagues of European soccer — England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France — has ever achieved.
Nowadays, it’s impossible for most, given England is the only one of the five countries to still have two cup competitions after France abolished its League Cup — the Coupe de la Ligue — in 2020. Germany did so in 2007 and Spain hasn’t had a League Cup equivalent since 1986.
It has been achieved, though, by Celtic’s so-called Lisbon Lions in the 1966-67 season. The great Scottish team won all three domestic trophies before beating Inter Milan in the European Cup final in Lisbon.
Considering the grueling nature of the English season, Liverpool’s achievement would surely top that, especially given the quality of opposition Klopp’s team is up against in Guardiola’s City.
Aside from Celtic, eight teams have done the treble of the European Cup, domestic league and domestic cup: Ajax (1971-72), PSV Eindhoven (1987-88), Manchester United (1998-99), Barcelona (2008-09), Inter Milan (2009-10), Bayern Munich (2012-13), Barcelona (2014-15) and Bayern again (2019-20).
For many, Guardiola’s brilliant Barcelona team of 2009, featuring Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, is the yardstick for winning six trophies that calendar year: the treble along with the Spanish Super Cup, the Club World Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup.
Here’s what Klopp’s team is facing on its path to greatness:
This looks like being the hardest trophy for Liverpool’s players to win because it is out of their hands. If City wins its remaining five games, Guardiola’s team retains its title. Liverpool can keep applying maximum pressure, though, as it plays before City in their next three rounds of games. Liverpool’s next match — away to a resurgent Newcastle on Saturday — might be the toughest to win because it comes in the middle of a tight six-day turnaround between games against Villarreal in the Champions League semifinals. Tottenham at home on May 7 looks to be the other game that will most trouble the Reds. City’s run-in contains games against Leeds, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, West Ham and Aston Villa that the leaders would be expected to win. Leeds and Newcastle might be the most dangerous as they come either side of City’s second leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals. City won the domestic treble in 2018-19 but lost in the Champions League to Tottenham in the quarterfinals.
Liverpool will take on Chelsea in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 14, and it’s the first time since 1993 (Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal) that the same two teams have played each other in both of England’s domestic cup finals. Chelsea looks fairly safe in third place in the Premier League and is out of the Champions League, so manager Thomas Tuchel will be able to rest its best players before the final — a luxury that might not be open to Klopp.
If Liverpool finishes off Villarreal in the second leg on Tuesday, Klopp’s team will play either Madrid or City in the final in Paris on May 28. It would be a third final in five years for Liverpool, which would be bidding for a seventh European Cup title.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports