The last twenty-seven years for Liverpool Football Club have been dominated by slip-ups against ‘lesser’ sides, often costing them Premier League titles or Champions League qualifications.
Yet big victories have remained, with memorable cup successes – most notably the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul – and plenty of highlights against their fellow giants of English football.
Whilst the 2010s have seen the trophies dry up, their record in big games remains strong, perhaps even stronger. Under Brendan Rodgers Liverpool enjoyed outstanding results against the top clubs, including a 5-1 home victory against Arsenal, a 9-0 aggregate triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, and a 3-2 win at Anfield against Manchester City – results which left Liverpool fans realistically dreaming of a nineteenth league title.
It was not to be, but Liverpool have continued to deliver against their closest rivals.
Jurgen Klopp has not only picked up from where Rodgers left off against the top sides, but has improved Liverpool’s success rate in these massive matches.
Their Merseyside rivals Everton have also been dominated by the red half of Merseyside throughout this century, with no signs that the stranglehold will be loosened soon – although Ronald Koeman’s side will look to change that after the international break when they visit Anfield, a ground they have not tasted victory at since 1999.
Yet that derby is the final fixture for the Reds against teams in the top seven of the Premier League, with twenty points achieved from a possible thirty against their fellow members of the ‘Big Six’ – Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal – alongside a dramatic last-minute victory at Goodison Park.
Liverpool top the mini-league of Big Six encounters with their superb points tally in these matches. Unfortunately, Klopp’s side have endured the usual issues of struggling against teams below the elite, hence they are scrapping for a top four finish this season instead of challenging Chelsea at the top of the table.
Nevertheless, Liverpool’s 2016/17 season has witnessed fantastic clashes against their Big Six colleagues. Let’s take a look at the best of these for the Reds:
Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool
Liverpool began their campaign with their best victory of the season to date, and possibly the most entertaining match of the Premier League so far.
Missing James Milner, Joel Matip and Daniel Sturridge, the Reds fell behind to a Theo Walcott strike, after the Englishman had previously missed a penalty. Alberto Moreno continued his nightmare from last season’s Europa League defeat to Sevilla, paving the way for Milner’s season-long transition to left-back.
Liverpool were barely in the first half, yet found themselves level after a brilliant free-kick from Philippe Coutinho. After the break, the Reds were transformed, ripping Arsenal to pieces with goals from Adam Lallana, Coutinho and a fabulous Sadio Mane.
To their credit, the Gunners hit back through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers, but the damage had already been done. Liverpool held on for what could be a vital win come the end of the season.
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
Another day in London, and another away win for Liverpool.
Antonio Conte was still finding his feet in England as the new manager of Chelsea, but they had begun the season with three successive wins and remained a force to be reckoned with.
However, Liverpool took them apart in the first-half at Stamford Bridge, suffocating Conte’s side and striking through Dejan Lovren and captain Jordan Henderson, with the latter netting a magnificent goal from distance.
Klopp’s side lost a degree of control in the second half, and Diego Costa found the net to raise the tension, but ultimately Liverpool were comfortable and saw out their sixth victory at Stamford Bridge in eight years.
Since September, Chelsea have gone from strength to strength, powering to another league title, with Liverpool scrapping to a 1-1 draw with the Blues at Anfield in January.
Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham
In recent years Liverpool have enjoyed coming up against Tottenham, and this February clash at Anfield proved to be no exception, with Mane in particular running the show.
The Senegalese forward grabbed both goals in the first-half in quick succession, as Tottenham struggled to cope with Liverpool’s high-intensity.
Given that the North London side adopt a similar style of play to Klopp’s Reds, it was surprising to see Mauricio Pochettino’s side so ill-equipped to combat Liverpool, with the Argentinian’s decision to play a high line especially suspect.
The Reds tired in the second half, but by then had again blown the opposition away, ensuring that Liverpool would pick up four points from six against Pochettino’s side, having drawn 1-1 at White Hart Lane in August.
Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
Liverpool remained unable to sustain any momentum in the league, with the victory over Spurs their only victory in 2017, ahead of the clash against Arsenal at Anfield. With their top four challenge faltering badly after a 3-1 defeat to Leicester City, the Reds had to secure the three points against Arsene Wenger’s side, who were also struggling for form.
Yet again – with the ironic exception of the reverse fixture between the two teams – the first-half proved crucial, as Liverpool’s attack returned to form against a fragile Arsenal defence.
Roberto Firmino found the roof of the net after less than ten minutes, before a powerful Mane effort into the bottom corner placed the Reds in full control going into half-time.
Wenger, who notably left Alexis Sanchez among the substitutes, brought the Chilean off the bench for the second-half, and his impact was immediate, setting up Danny Welbeck’s strike. Liverpool then had to endure a nervy half-hour, before Georginio Wijnaldum, on the counter-attack, calmed Anfield’s nerves by scoring in front of the Kop in injury-time.
Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool’s final game against the Big Six may have not ended in victory, but was a thrilling encounter nonetheless.
How both teams only managed two goals combined during the match will remain a mystery, with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling especially going close for Pep Guardiola’s side. Yet Liverpool had plenty of chances themselves, most notably through Lallana’s horrendously unfortunate miss with the goal gaping.
Michael Oliver had a tough time as the referee, with numerous penalty claims, many of which were valid but unsuccessful. Ultimately, both sides deserved a point, and both remain in favourable positions to secure a place in the top four, and Champions League football, going into the international break.
For Liverpool, having previously defeated City 1-0 at Anfield on New Years’ Eve, the draw at the Etihad Stadium means the Reds have gone the entire season unbeaten against the Big Six – five wins and five draws.
If only they had such a record against the rest of the Premier League.