Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Liverpool
They are the champions-elect and nothing short of an enforced stoppage from association football will stop them.
Their latest victory against their arch-rivals continued their unbeaten league record in 2019/2020 and, even now, despite many false dawns, one suspects even the most pessimistic Liverpool fans knows their title drought is about to end.
The question now is can they emulate one of the great English sides of modern-day and go through a Premier League campaign without defeat?
Premier League highlights have been a regular occurrence for the Merseysiders on their way to becoming runaway league leaders.
While deservedly taking the plaudits, what must also not be forgotten is how impressive their opponents have been in the first half of the campaign.
Indeed, with a much smaller squad, Wolves go into this midweek set of fixtures in sixth place – ahead of the likes of north London powerhouses Spurs and Arsenal.
Coached by two of the most impressive bosses in Europe right now in Nuno Espirito Santos and Jurgen Klopp, these two are the busiest top-flight teams in England. And while it may still be January, this will be Wolves’ 40th match of the season and Liverpool’s 39th.
It’s easy to forget that amid the summer toil of the Europa League qualifying rounds, Wolves took only four points from their first six league games of the season.
They have been in largely fine form ever since and with a stronger squad, it would be interesting to see if they could bridge the gap currently separating them from fourth place.
At the weekend, they once more showed their quality accounts for character as much as class.
Based on that showing, it was easy to see why Wolves have earned 18 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, seven more than any other team.
They have led for just 305 minutes in the top flight this campaign, the least amount of any side. In contrast, Liverpool have led for the most at 1,160 minutes.
Yet since the beginning of last season, only Liverpool and champions Manchester City have managed more points against established top-six opposition than Wolves, who have taken 24.
They will need to improve their head-to-head showing against Liverpool mind.
Wolves have won just one of the 11 Premier League meetings and have lost the last six, scoring just once in those games.
The leaders haven’t lost away against Wolves in league competition since August 1981 and indeed the only three players to score a Premier League goal for Wolves against them are Kenny Miller, Stephen Ward, and Steven Fletcher.
Team news wise, Diogo Jota is nearing a return to full fitness having missed the previous four matches with a calf injury but is unlikely to be risked for this one.
Liverpool have Fabinho fit again and Naby Keita and James Milner on their way back after a month out.
The biggest improvement has clearly been in defence since the signing of Virgil van Dijk two years ago. Klopp’s men have conceded just 14 league goals this term and have kept seven clean sheets in a row.
A win or draw at Molineux would mean Liverpool become only the fifth team in the history of the English Football League to go 40 or more league games undefeated, after Nottingham Forest (42, 1977-78), Arsenal (49, 2003-04), Chelsea (40, 2004-05) and Huddersfield Town (43, 2011).
That will surely be the incentive for them and Wolves.
Overall, Liverpool have 52 victories against Wolves who hold 36 triumphs to their name, while a further 17 meetings have ended all square.
Their last meeting in the black country came just over a year ago in the third round of the FA Cup — albeit with much-changed sides — when the hosts emerged victorious, thanks to a Ruben Neves wonder strike.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT FOOTBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES