Richard Buxton: Heartache ahead for Liverpool?
A potentially momentous week could end with Liverpool being second best to Barca and Man City
Fate continues to be a cruel mistress to Liverpool.
Hearts, bodies and minds have been thrown at a labour of love that has taken them right down to the wire in both the English Premier League and Champions League this season.
Juergen Klopp's side will be remembered as the most valiant title challengers in top-flight history and equally the most daring for trying to break La Liga's five-year stranglehold on Europe's elite club competition as they face Barcelona tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
And yet, it is still likely to amount to nothing.
Anfield has routinely learnt the hard way that their best is not quite good enough.
Someone else has always been better than them, both in physical and financial capabilities.
The 86-point haul recorded by Rafael Benitez in 2008/09 would have been enough to win the EPL title, only for Manchester United to go four points better. Likewise, the 84 garnered under Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool fell short to Manchester City last time out, in 2013/14.
Subsequent falls from grace became inevitable for the previous three Liverpool managers who went to within a whisker of ending a domestic drought that dates back to 1990.
Inside 18 months of their respective achievements, Rodgers, Benitez and Roy Evans were all deposed.
Regression took hold in the immediate aftermath for each of those one-season wonders.
None was capable of pushing Liverpool through the glass ceiling at a second time of asking.
The Anfield faithful's patience was worn thin by a sharp return to their former status quo.
Klopp, however, is better placed than his predecessors to last the distance even in the face of a potential fourth successive campaign without silverware.
Steady year-on-year progression has built up to a season where the standard has been raised, by themselves as much as City.
That in itself has its own roots in misfortune, as what was once a potentially momentous week by Liverpool's modern standards threatens to fade unceremoniously into the sunset.
BARCA'S MAIN AIM
Barca's comprehensive 3-0 first-leg win has put them one foot in the Champions League final.
Lionel Messi and company made reaching next month's showpiece in Madrid their main objective this term.
Recapturing the Spanish title was simply a fillip that helped spur them on to that key aim.
Liverpool were sucker-punched at the Nou Camp last week.
A repeat performance by Barcelona at Anfield would land the knockout blow on a season that promised so much and is yet to deliver.
Bowing out to the brilliance of Messi carries little shame; neither did failing to topple Real Madrid's three-year dominance of the Champions League in last season's final defeat.
Similarly, being bested by another son of Catalonia in Pep Guardiola is no mean feat.
That the EPL title race will be mathematically within reach until the final game deserves huge credit.
Mortality has come to all of Anfield's most successful teams at some point. Some surrendered winning positions too willfully, others had Igor Biscan and Djimi Traore playing in them.
Passengers are virtually non-existent in Liverpool's current crop. Klopp's relentless demands on his players do not allow any to coast through games, let alone an entire campaign.
All that remains is an unrelenting hope that the improbable can be overcome, both in overturning a three-goal deficit against Barca and hauling back City at the EPL finish line.
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