Race for the title

The 2013/14 Premier League title race has developed into an epic battle between Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal but how does it compare to some previous classics from the archives...?


Last Updated: 04/04/14 1:44pm

A look back at the Premier League 2008/09 season where Liverpool surrendered the title in the second half of the season to Manchester Utd
A look back at the Premier League 2008/09 season where Liverpool surrendered the title in the second half of the season to Manchester Utd

Unfortunately for Liverpool, they have never won the Premier League title. It has been a long and painful 24 years since the Anfield giants were last crowned the best club in England, but that is not to say they have not come close.

In 2008/09, Rafa Benitez's Merseysiders finished agonisingly just four points short of the silverware and, to make it all the more upsetting for those on The Kop, they were second behind their arch-rivals from the North West, Manchester United.

Liverpool boasted a better goal difference than United that season, a rarity in a runner-up, and they also lost fewer games, however, an Old Trafford squad containing the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez ultimately proved too strong.

Premier League Table 2008/09

TeamGames PlayedWinsDrawsDefeatsGoal DifferencePoints
1) Man Utd3828644490
2) Liverpool38251125086

United's group was a collection of players considered among the best in Sir Alex Ferguson's illustrious reign at Old Trafford and that shows the calibre of opposition it took to stop a Liverpool side spearheaded by the goalscoring partnership of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.

Torres and Gerrard: Deadly duo

The problem for Liverpool was a collapse just after the halfway stage of the season. They had led United by eight points in the January of the campaign, but by mid-March, when they visited United, they had fallen seven points behind in a remarkable swing.

Arguably the most painful element in surrendering the title in the second half of the season for Liverpool was that it felt like self-destruction and the reason is often thought to be the infamous 'Rafa rant'.

At the beginning of January, in his pre-match media conference building up to a then-table-topping Liverpool facing Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, Benitez commenced on his outburst to the assembled press and TV corps.

Draw specialists: Benitez's team drew 11 games in the 2008/09 Premier League

It was a bizarre, baffling and ultimately flawed decision from the Liverpool boss in response to Ferguson complaining about the fixture list and referees supposedly dealing United a rough hand. It was what is more commonly known as 'mind games' and it backfired on Benitez.

Liverpool's manager, who was at the time also reportedly chasing the signature of Gareth Barry which was rumoured to have unsettled key midfielder Xabi Alonso, saw his team go on to suffer a goalless stalemate at Stoke and then follow that with another two successive draws which eventually proved their downfall among 11 shares of the points that season.

Benitez's team would get back on track and, that March, he would mastermind one of his club's greatest days at Old Trafford in a celebrated 4-1 victory. It was the second game of a run of 10 wins from their final 11 league games which got them to back within that four points of United.

Andrey Arshavin: Scored four goals at Anfield in Arsenal's thrilling 4-4 draw

However, the damage had already been done before a 4-4 draw with Arsenal at the end of April at Anfield - where Andrey Arshavin memorably scored all four goals for the visitors - gave Liverpool too much to do in their final five games.

It was the closest Benitez came to winning the Premier League and the same can be said to date of Liverpool. As a result, for the remainder of the Spaniard's tenure, rival fans took pleasure in reminding him and the Reds of this fact and verses of 'Rafa's cracking up' could regularly be heard ringing around the country.

Can Liverpool continue their current race for the title? Find out when they take on West Ham United on Sunday live on Sky Sports 1HD from 3.30pm