Liverpool collapse would be worst ever but Jurgen Klopp can contain Man City
Liverpool couldn't have done much more against Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. Three goals and an equally-important clean sheet have given them a good chance of progression on Tuesday.
Will it be enough, though? There may still be people surprised the question is being asked but this isn't the disciplined, methodical Liverpool of old or even the smooth machine of the Rafa Benitez era.
Where Europe is concerned it is rare for any discussion of Liverpool to avoid mentioning history. At least that is on their side: they've never lost a tie when three goals in front from the first leg.
That's where Manchester City come in. Domestically at least they're a team with record-breaking on their minds. Scoring goals has come so easy for them that having to get another three won't faze them in the slightest. However, they do have problems at the back -- as further demonstrated by their amazing collapse against Manchester United on Saturday.
Really, both City and Liverpool should come with a cast-iron guarantee: expect the unexpected.
Liverpool's own game this weekend could not have been planned better, with some players rested and the usual fiery tackling of a Merseyside derby notable by its absence during a drab goalless draw which contained not a single yellow card for either team.
Fingers will be crossed for the swift recovery of Mohamed Salah, because Jurgen Klopp's striking options when the Egyptian goes missing are disconcerting to put it mildly.
It's also naive to suggest Liverpool only need their defensive players to be on top form this Tuesday for all to go smoothly. This has been a nerve-wracking season for supporters, who love the attacking football Klopp has provided, but remain mistrustful of his game management.
In the second half of the first leg there was, in fairness, a disciplined response to City's determination to get an away goal but it could hardly be claimed the opposition played to their full potential.
Most fans believe that Liverpool still need an away goal, the earlier the better, as they are facing opponents fully capable of wiping out that deficit.
The Reds have already had several collapses this season. Their 5-0 hammering at the Etihad in the league encounter is often dismissed as a direct consequence of Sadio Mane's red card but there have been other calamitous moments even with 11 players on the pitch.
Thumped by Tottenham at Wembley, conceding three goals in five minutes at Arsenal and even letting West Brom score three in one half at Anfield in the FA Cup. Manchester United should really have been three up at half-time in the recent league match at Old Trafford too.
The counter to those examples, bar City away, is that the final results would still see Liverpool emerge victorious if repeated in this one.
Despite their two recent collapses, City are the best side in the country and containing them is Klopp's biggest challenge so far. Some will claim United's weekend comeback exposed City's weakness yet the two situations are not similar at all. City clearly felt 2-0 was enough on Saturday and that United didn't possess the firepower to hurt them, while they will not think any of that if given a similar start against Liverpool.
On the whole Virgil van Dijk has helped the Reds look a little more secure at the back but he and his teammates will be stepping into a whole new situation now.
Forget all those tired jokes about the "Emptihad," Anfield's atmosphere last week has thrown down a gauntlet to City supporters tired of having their own loyalty and fanaticism casually dismissed.
The huge cash injection that helped City get where they are is too often used as a way to dismiss all they've ever stood for as a passionate, important football club. Their fans' chants at Anfield certainly didn't help, of course. "Just like United, you live in the past" helped goad Liverpool into a frenetic response.
Now the boot is on the other foot, with City's pride dented not just in one game but two. An already talented team has the impetus it may have always needed to go through; being written off and discounted before a ball is kicked. Underdogs, as bizarre as that may seem.
Klopp won't be one of those doubters, obviously, but nor is it his way to instigate a shutdown of any football match. It hasn't been up to now, anyway.
Some fans have continuously complained about the lack of efficient game management whenever Liverpool are in front against quality opposition. Sevilla, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and even City to an extent have all made comebacks against them this season. To lose this tie from such an advantageous performance wouldn't just be the worst collapse of the season, it would be Liverpool's worst ever.
If Liverpool can perform as well as they did in the first leg though, they will go through whatever City do.
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.