Neil Humphreys: High stakes in biggest game in years
Long-suffering Liverpool fans can only hope their team beat Man City and go 10 points clear; lose, and it's deja vu again
Stop all the clocks. Cut off the telephone. Bring out You'll Never Walk Alone and let the Blue Moon come. Apologies to poet W H Auden, but this is the big one.
Real poetry is about to be played out at the Etihad tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
English Premier League spin doctors oversell every media-saturated contest like a car salesman flogging a rust bucket with no certificate of entitlement, but this is the greatest game in world football with the greatest ramifications.
El Clasico has moved to Manchester. Really.
Liverpool's trip to Manchester City teases the realisation of a distant dream that is now so tantalisingly close it hurts.
For long-suffering Reds, hope actually hurts.
Despair is always easier when it's commonplace.
Twenty-eight years of failure essentially stopped the Reds believing, especially after 2014.
Steven Gerrard's slip and Liverpool's title stumble concluded an unnecessarily cruel narrative. Neither captain nor club deserved such a wicked legacy.
And yet, just four years later, here we are.
At the start of the New Year, the Reds were seven points clear. Since Newcastle's collapse in 1996, no one has given up such an advantage on New Year's Day and thrown away the title. No one.
But the jaded Reds won't permit themselves the luxury of hope. Not yet.
They know that Jose Mourinho was wrong when he dismissed Arsene Wenger's Arsenal as specialists in failure. For 28 years, Liverpool were the real specialists in failure.
Oh, there were historic nights in Istanbul, but they never delivered where it mattered. The occasional princes of Europe remained paupers at home.
Sir Alex Ferguson succeeded in knocking them off their "f****** perch" and the annual disappointments have haunted the Scousers ever since.
So Liverpool won't entirely believe. They must defeat City at the Etihad first.
Establish a 10-point gap and then everything changes.
An undefeated team won't go on to lose four games. A fortress that has conceded the fewest goals (eight) after 20 games of a top-flight season isn't going to lower the drawbridge.
Virgil van Dijk isn't going to suddenly swop colossus for clown any more than Alisson, whose astonishing form has surprised his own manager.
Similarly, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are still improving and benefiting from Juergen Klopp's astute tactical change, pushing Salah further forward and spreading Liverpool's scoring options.
The Reds haven't peaked yet.
Avoid defeat against City and they'll run away with the title. They won't be caught, not by City and certainly not by Tottenham Hotspur.
History itself may prove the greatest obstacle. Liverpool don't have one, not when it comes to the EPL.
Whenever they threatened in the past, they folded. Being Manchester United's punching bag for nearly three decades hardly helped their mental fragilities.
But revenge could be just 90 minutes away. It's the wrong mob from Manchester, but the right motivation. It's a chance to believe again.
Leicester City's title triumph in 2016 was the most romantic, but a Liverpool crown in 2019 would be the most revered around the world, a point not lost on Pep Guardiola.
Top-flight English football was the house that Manchester United and Liverpool built, an unpalatable fact for City and others to swallow, but an undeniable one nonetheless.
With United languishing, the EPL benefits from a resurgent Liverpool. But Guardiola needs a resurgent Liverpool like he needs a defeat at the Etihad.
City only sell when they're winning. For Guardiola, this season was always going to be more significant than the last, despite all those broken records for most points, wins and goals.
For City managers, EPL titles are like birthdays. They will come around eventually. So Guardiola must go one better and win back-to-back titles.
Whatever the result, we'll all be thinking something that was unthinkable just a couple of months ago.
By tomorrow, City's dynasty could be postponed as Pool's dream gets pushed forward.
Either way, only a fool would miss this one - and perhaps Ferguson. After 28 years, the Reds are poised to get back on their perch.