It’s 1970 all over again. The fab four, are no more.
With the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona this week for £142 million, the short-lived moniker has been sadly retired.
Coutinho’s mid-season transfer has left Liverpool fans pondering an existential crisis.
Following the acquisition of Virgil van Dijk, coming in the middle of a 17-game unbeaten run and a favourable draw in the Champions League to get excited about, the Merseysiders once again faced the conundrum of their best player deciding that their career was best served, away from Anfield.
It has led to inevitable questions as to the viability of building a great team at Liverpool once again.
If they are to repeatedly sell their best players at their peak, where are they going?
The transfer also sparked a debate as to Liverpool’s current place as a supposed big club, on the global football stage.
Once Liverpool fans emerge from the bleary-eyed hangover of losing their star player, however, they will turn their attention to the visit of Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday afternoon, and the harshest of opening tests for the post-Coutinho team.
City won the corresponding fixture 5-0 in September. It’s a result, however, that stops some way short of telling the whole story of the game.
Liverpool, who were without an injured Coutinho, were doing well and were, arguably, the better team until Sadio Mané was sent off in the 37th minute for attempting to decapitate Manchester City goalkeeper, Ederson.
Although City were 1-0 up by that stage, Sergio Aguero’s goal had come against the run of play and, in typical Liverpool style, was generous in the extreme.
Klopp set up his team to attack City that day, as he will on Sunday.
A feature of the first half was Mohammed Salah combining with Roberto Firminio in an effort to turn Nicolas Otamendi inside out, and pierce the City back line.
Salah tormented the Argentine international during the opening exchanges and spurned two opportunities to give Liverpool the lead before Aguero’s opener.
Once Mané was sent off however, Liverpool waved the white flag by substituting the Egyptian international.
But if the Reds need any inspiration ahead of Sunday, they need look no further than their performance for the first half-hour that day.
Otamendi, for sure, will not be looking forward to seeing Salah again.
Inconsistency and defensive lapses have been a feature of Klopp’s Liverpool.
They are unbeaten since the defeat to Tottenham at Wembley in October however and have won twelve of their last 17 games.
In terms of the defence, £75 million has been spent on Van Dijk in an attempt to shore up this long-running issue.
The Dutchman is no miracle worker. Questions remain about his suitability for this Liverpool team.
Yet given some of the goals they’ve conceded this season, and as the recent maxim goes, his presence can only improve this defence.
Look closely enough and you begin to see there is sufficient evidence for Liverpool fans to be quietly confident ahead of Sunday.
The likelihood is of course that, sooner or later, Manchester City have to lose to somebody.
An English team has only ever completed a league season unbeaten on two occasions. Arsenal in 2004, and Preston North End during the inaugural league season in 1888.
None of the great Liverpool teams of the seventies or eighties managed it. Neither did Ferguson’s treble team, or the 2008 incarnation. Nor Mourinho’s relentless Chelsea side of the mid-2000’s.
Going the entire league season unbeaten is an unlikely feat, even if you are a great team.
So, who can take three points from Guardiola’s runaway leaders?
Jose Mourinho has already proven his growing inclination for playing for draws at best, in such fixtures.
Arsenal host City next month, but given their latest crisis, it is not easy to envisage them being the team to stop City.
Spurs and Chelsea may fancy their chances against the champions-elect and it is, of course, possible that City could come unstuck against one of the leagues weaker sides.
But Liverpool, on their current run, with their new centre-back at long last, desperate for a morale-boosting result following a week of soul-searching on Merseyside, may give City their biggest scare yet.
Nothing will ease the pain of losing Coutinho more than three points at home to the league’s best team.
Alan Flood, Pundit Arena