On May 5, 2014, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez combined to hand Liverpool a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace as they chased their first title since 1990.
Now, one is at Manchester City and set to be crowned a Premier League champion. The other is at Barcelona and set to be crowned a La Liga champion.
Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool wound up drawing 3-3 at Selhurst Park, leaving their title hopes in tatters, and the squad from that day got a little smaller this week.
Philippe Coutinho is presented on the Nou Camp pitch after joining Barcelona for £145million
Luis Suarez (left) and Raheem Sterling were in devastating form for Liverpool in 2013-14
Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool for Barcelona in a £145million move, turning the ‘Fab Four’ into a ‘Fab Three’.
Daniel Sturridge also scored at Selhurst and is one of just four Liverpool players still at Anfield from the 2013-14 season. The others are Simon Mignolet, Jon Flanagan and Jordan Henderson.
Coutinho got the best of both worlds, the best of both attacks.
He played with the Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge in 2013-14, and with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane this season.
Coutinho is hugged by Sadio Mane (left) and Roberto Firmino after scoring a goal in December
Mohamed Salah has fitted in perfectly at Liverpool, scoring 23 goals in all competitions so far
LIVERPOOL’S 2013-14 FAB FOUR
Luis Suarez – sold to Barcelona for £75m
Raheem Sterling – sold to Manchester City for £49m
Philippe Coutinho – sold to Barcelona for £145m
Daniel Sturridge – up for sale at £30m
TOTAL: £299m (including Sturridge)
Only Coutinho could tell you who he preferred to play alongside in the red of Liverpool, though they aren’t so far apart on paper.
Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge were hailed as one of the world’s best forward lines back then but Liverpool’s current crop are just as lethal, if not better.
In 2013-14, Rodgers’ front three finished the season with 61 goals, with Suarez accountable for 31 of those. After 22 games, they were fourth in the table with 43 points.
So far this season, Jurgen Klopp’s three are on 31 goals, and they likewise sit fourth on 44 points.
With Liverpool’s current group, you get the feeling that one of them can have an off-day and the other two will fill in.
Michael Owen spoke earlier in the season on BT Sport about how he feels Klopp’s lot ‘all feed off each other’ and they are indeed averaging more assists than their Anfield predecessors.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was then asked who he would least like to face. His response was telling.
‘The current side,’ Ferdinand said. ‘Because they have got willing runners off the ball. Mane and Firmino especially run that way (behind). Defenders don’t want to run that way. We want it easy. We want to see it all.’
Lineker rebutted: ‘Suarez liked to run that way.’
And Ferdinand answered: ‘But not as much as these two. Their first instinct is to run beyond the defenders and that makes it very hard.
‘I’m not saying they weren’t a good front three the other lot, but in terms of a defender having to chase back to your own goal, you don’t want to do that.’
That’s what Klopp’s front three do. They chase, they hound, they run behind and they track back.
Suarez was an enigma. Any one of his four goals against Norwich City at Anfield in December 2013 would tell you that.
He chased and so did his team-mates to some degree, but nowhere near as much as Salah, Mane and Firmino, who know how to execute the Klopp game-plan to perfection.
Bristol City targeted Manchester City’s full-backs in their Carabao Cup semi-final with balls over the top. Although it was not Guardiola’s strongest side, they struggled at times.
With Klopp’s speedsters, that may be a method of attack.
City have not won at Anfield in the Premier League for almost 15 years. In fact, Leroy Sane was just seven years old when they last won at Liverpool.
Guardiola goes there with the feeling that this will be his most difficult fixture of the season. With Liverpool’s front three rivalling the one that almost won the title in 2014, it should be.