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Liverpool the new Premier League Invincibles? The big hurdles they must clear to make it
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Last Updated: 23/01/20 8:14pm
Festive fixture congestion wasn't a problem. The January blip is yet to surface. And the tricky double-header with Jose Mourinho's Tottenham and a fired-up Manchester United produced no slip-up.
In fact, in the past few weeks, with the challenges stacking up for Liverpool, they've only strengthened their position at the top of the Premier League table.
Thirteen points and two games in hand stands their advantage over second-placed Manchester City ahead of Thursday's trip to Wolves.
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With a kind run of Premier League fixtures on the way - West Ham, Southampton, Norwich, West Ham again, Watford and Bournemouth - the focus has now shifted from whether Liverpool will win the title to just how convincingly.
And whether they can match the unbeaten season of Arsenal's 2003/04 Invincibles.
They've already racked up 39 games unbeaten, stretching back to last January. What's another 16?
Jurgen Klopp will be the first to tell you there's rarely an easy game in the Premier League and his side need to remain focused against every opponent. But there are some obstacles coming up which look more threatening than others.
Here are the key hurdles Liverpool will have to get over if they are to achieve an undefeated, title-winning season…
Wolves on Thursday night
Wolves' recent record against Liverpool is poor - they've lost their last six in the league - but Nuno's side have done the double over Manchester City this season and were only narrowly seen off 1-0 at Anfield, so they have the potential to trouble the visitors at Molineux on Thursday night.
They also knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 home win a year ago.
With Adama Traore's lightning pace on the counter-attack and Raul Jimenez looking sharp after his match-winning double at Southampton on Saturday, Wolves have the tools to do some damage.
Merseyside derby after Champions League exertions
Liverpool have made light work of their neighbours twice already this season, thrashing them 5-2 in the league in December before fielding a youthful side in the FA Cup and knocking Everton out of that competition.
But Liverpool's trip across Stanley Park in mid-March falls at an intriguing time. On the Tuesday before the weekend derby, Liverpool will have hosted Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Who's to say right now how much that fixture will demand of Klopp's men physically and mentally - and how the result will impact them as they prepare to face opponents who will be utterly focused on ending their unbeaten streak.
Manchester City's revenge at the Etihad?
Liverpool's long unbeaten Premier League run began over 12 months ago after a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City. Could it be that Pep Guardiola's side bookend Liverpool's undefeated spell? This will be game 49, where a draw or win would see Liverpool match Arsenal's record undefeated run.
City will certainly have a point to prove against their seemingly certain Premier League title successors - and if City's own Champions League campaign has not gone to plan, they will have plenty of time to think about this match.
Throw in the fact it comes on the back of an international break, with players returning from all parts of the world and with limited training-field preparation time, and this fixture is shaping up to be Liverpool's biggest test of their Invincible credentials.
A tricky double header
Arsenal will themselves have a shot at denying Liverpool the opportunity to match their Invincible season on 2 May. What a story it would be if they were to pull it off - and Mikel Arteta, for so long Pep Guardiola's confidant, was to be the one to upset his former bosses' rivals.
That trip to the Emirates is sandwiched by a potential Champions League semi-final for Liverpool - and off the back of that Frank Lampard's Chelsea will turn up at Anfield and have a crack at the Reds themselves.
There really is no opportunity for Liverpool to take their foot off the gas.
One final test
Ultimately, Liverpool are set to be celebrating whatever happens against Newcastle on Sunday 17 May. Barring the most dramatic of collapses, they will have the Premier League trophy in their hands, their 30-year wait to be champions of England once more will be over and the party will be going off regardless of the result.
But if an invincible season is still within their grasp, Liverpool's players will have to go again one last time. Newcastle won't make it easy. Manchester United and Chelsea have already been beaten at St James' Park this season, while Manchester City were held to a draw.
The added pressure of sealing a historic unbeaten campaign could cause issues too - remember, Arsenal were trailing at half-time in their final fixture of 2003/04 to Leicester before turning it around after the break.
If they are to become Invincibles, then right through until the final whistle of the final game, Liverpool cannot relax.
Liverpool's remaining Premier League fixtures
|Wolves (away)||January 23|
|West Ham (away)||January 29|
|Southampton (home)||February 1|
|Norwich (away)||February 15|
|West Ham (home)||February 24|
|Watford (away)||February 29|
|Bournemouth (home)||March 7|
|Everton (away)||March 14|
|Crystal Palace (home)||March 21|
|Manchester City (away)||April 4|
|Aston Villa (home)||April 11|
|Brighton (away)||April 18|
|Burnley (home)||April 25|
|Arsenal (away)||May 2|
|Chelsea (home)||May 9|
|Newcastle (away)||May 17|
|Dates subject to change|