Jurgen Klopp has Liverpool dreaming of Premier League title, but are they the real deal?
It will be 29 years next May since Liverpool were last crowned champions of England. A title party is long overdue at Anfield.
There have been plenty of near misses and false dawns since captain Alan Hansen lifted the old Football League Championship trophy aloft at the end of the 1989-90 season and the emergence of Chelsea and Manchester City as financial powerhouses during the intervening years has only made it more difficult for Liverpool to turn the clock back to their glory days, when league titles were almost taken for granted.
But four games into the 2018-19 season, Jurgen Klopp's team sit on the top of the Premier League having claimed a maximum 12 points so far. Nobody at Liverpool is foolish enough to get carried away by their impressive start, but equally, there can be no hiding the desperation of the club's supporters to finally see the club back on top of the English game.
But what does the start mean? Can it be a signpost to a title charge or is it too early to look for pointers towards the destination of this season's title race?
Manchester United sat on top of the Premier League four games into last season. A year earlier, Manchester City led the way after claiming four wins from their first four outings under Pep Guardiola. It was the same story 12 months prior to that for City, who held a three point lead after just four games.
By the end of those respective campaigns, early leaders United finished second, 19 points adrift of champions City, while City also failed to last the pace in 2015-16 and 2016-17, with Leicester finishing top, 15 points clear of Manuel Pellegrini's team in 2017 and Guardiola's first season ending with his side also 15 points behind eventual champions, Chelsea.
A good start, it seems, can ultimately be nothing more than that.
But momentum can be crucial and Liverpool's run to the Champions League final last season was a case in point, with the confidence and belief generated by the quarterfinal victory over Manchester City propelling them beyond Roma in the semifinals and into the final in Kiev, where they were beaten by Real Madrid.
After scoring nine and conceding just one in their winning start to the campaign, Liverpool certainly have momentum. But they also have to accept the spotlight and scrutiny that will come with being the early pacesetters.
Chelsea and Watford may have matched them step for step so far, with both clubs also winning four out of four, but there is an expectancy surrounding Liverpool this season that is not shared by their rivals.
Chelsea's start under Maurizio Sarri has caught many by surprise because nobody was tipping the club for the title this season, while Watford's run is an even bigger shock.
Liverpool, having spent £240.8 million in 2018 on the signings of Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keita, Fabinho and goalkeeper Alisson Becker, are regarded as the only credible challengers to City as potential champions, but with that comes added pressure.
They have handled it well to date, but if Liverpool are to prove themselves as the real deal this season, their month of the fixtures after the international break will be decisive.
Klopp's men visit Tottenham at Wembley -- the scene of last season's 4-1 hammering against Spurs -- on Sept. 15, before facing Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield in the Champions League three days later.
Southampton visit Anfield on Sept. 22 before Liverpool face Chelsea twice in four days, in the Carabao Cup and Premier League, ahead of a difficult Champions League trip to Napoli.
And then comes the home clash with City on Oct. 7 -- a game that will see Liverpool chasing a fourth successive win against Guardiola's team.
So the league leaders will face a stern test of their credentials as we head into autumn, but Klopp has the squad and individuals to keep the team on course for success, at home and in Europe.
Handling the challenges on the pitch is one thing. Harnessing the desire to win the title is something else.
The passion of the Liverpool supporters and the atmosphere inside Anfield is often a huge advantage to the players on the pitch, but there will be a time for cool heads this season and we have still to see whether Klopp's Liverpool can display that while their fans whip themselves into a frenzy.
But if Liverpool come through their next month with their momentum unchecked, managing off-field expectations will become as important as keeping everything moving on the pitch.
It is a dual challenge that is unique to Liverpool in this title race, and we are yet to see whether it will be a help or a hindrance.