If you want to start putting asterisks next to Liverpool’s impending Premier League triumph, make it half a dozen or so.
One to signify the unique nature of its manner, sure. But also one to mark the magnificence of the football that characterised their pre-Covid-19 charge to a first title in 30 years.
Another to note the remarkable records they have compiled over the past couple of years: the 44-game unbeaten run and the 18-match winning streak that has helped take them TWENTY-FIVE points clear with nine fixtures to fulfil.
How about one to flag up their eclipse of, in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, one of the most talented squads in the history of English top-flight football?
Jurgen Klopp’s achievement in following up such an agonising near miss last year by promptly winning the Champions League final and then scything his way through this season’s Premier League also deserves an asterisk.
And there must be one if they manage to collect the most points ever recorded in a Premier League season.
You could go on. Understandably, the thrill of Liverpool’s astonishing progression has long been rendered irrelevant by terrible human tragedy.
Football is the most important of the least important things in life – a phrase repeated by many managers, including Klopp – and the Premier League returns on Wednesday with an acute sense of perspective.
But for their remarkable development under Klopp, for their attacking dynamism, for their high-octane approach, for their discipline even, Liverpool deserve this chance to complete formalities.
They ARE formalities – the only unknown as far as Liverpool are concerned being whether they can set that new record points tally.
There are though few formalities elsewhere. It seems to have been generally accepted that Frank Lampard has made a hugely encouraging start in charge at Stamford Bridge.
But the bald fact is that, under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea were 11 points better off at the same stage of the 2018/19 campaign. With Manchester United resurgent ahead of the break, and with the Bruno Fernandes-Paul Pogba partnership laden with potential, Chelsea look vulnerable in that final Champions League position.
And Sheffield United and Wolves will not shy away from that particular fight either.
You can expect Manchester City and Leicester City to cement the second and third places, but with the future below the Premier League more uncertain than ever it is the struggle to avoid relegation that could prove to be the most gripping.
Demotion to the Championship has never been as catastrophic as most have made out. Go down, get reacquainted with having the ball, enjoy winning games again, hopefully come back up.
But while the future of the entire pyramid has a shroud of uncertainty, the EFL faces the toughest battle should crowds not be allowed back into grounds for a long time.
Any three from a minimum of six could still go down and that could be the most compelling narrative of this surreal final section of the 2019/20 season.
And it will be surreal, with unique atmospheres replaced by bio-secure environments and celebrations at a social distance.
At least though we will get to see things of footballing beauty again. The Kevin De Bruyne pass, the Virgil van Dijk interception, the Jamie Vardy finish.
In the context of real life, this surreal return will not truly matter. When the death toll ticks over day by day by day, issues of relegation, Champions League slots and Liverpool’s eventual winning margin are strictly trifling.
The return of the Premier League is not even a step towards normality. How can it be when players cannot even clear their throats?
It is though the most welcome of distractions, and the opportunity for a great modern team and a great modern manager to write a new chapter in the club’s fine history.
The opportunity for the asterisk champions to remind everyone why they are stars.
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