NORWICH, England -- So Liverpool win again and the incredible run goes on. It was a 1-0 result, in the wind and rain, against a Norwich City team that has been anchored to the foot of the Premier League for longer than anyone at Carrow Road cares to remember. Straightforward? Not in the slightest.
This was one of Liverpool's toughest 90 minutes of the season, a game in which they had to dig deeper than usual in order to secure the win. The fact that they had to work so hard for the three points is a testament to the depth of the Premier League.
When, not if, Liverpool are confirmed as champions, there will be some who suggest that their success is compromised by the failure of the other 19 top-flight teams to push them all the way.
Statistically, Liverpool's record makes the Premier League look weak. Every win -- this was their 17th in succession, leaving them one behind Manchester City's record of 18 -- points to a lack of quality facing them every week. They have now scored in 35 consecutive league games and only Arsenal (55 games between May 2001 and November 2002) and Manchester United (36 games between December 2007 and November 2008) can better that. If they avoid defeat for seven more league games and make it 50 unbeaten, they will write Arsenal's Invincibles out of the record books by establishing the longest run without defeat in English top-flight history, dating back to the 19th century.
While all of the above may point to the Premier League lacking the strength and depth, maybe the reality is that it actually emphasises just how good this Liverpool team are. Norwich City, statistically the worst team in the league, helped Liverpool prove that by pushing them all the way on a night when even the foul weather conditions courtesy of Storm Dennis couldn't blow Jurgen Klopp's team off course.
Norwich started the day 55 points behind the leaders. They were no-hopers in every sense, but it could have been a different story for Liverpool had the home side taken their chances -- most notably when Alex Tettey rattled Alisson's post midway through the second half.
Sadio Mane's 78th-minute goal -- the Senegalese forward's 100th in English football -- was enough to clinch Liverpool's 25th win in 26 league games so far this season, and the victory extended their lead at the top to 25 points over second-placed City. But we are now at the stage where the points and numbers really only matter for the history books, because Klopp's team are destined to win the title in record time and this latest victory ensured that Liverpool remain on course to end their 30-year wait to be champions before they visit City at the Etihad next month.
"The gap is so insane, I don't really understand it," Klopp said. "I'm not smart enough. I've not had that before.
"It's outstanding, it's so difficult. I go back into the changing room and we chat about the things and then I'm like, 'Oh, but congratulations. We won the game, another three points.'"
Norwich's performance in this game was an example of the challenges that Liverpool, and every Premier League title winner, must overcome to emerge as champions. Back in September, Daniel Farke's team produced one of the shocks of the season by beating City 3-2 at Carrow Road. They also gave Liverpool a scare at Anfield on the opening weekend before sliding to a 4-1 defeat.
Liverpool have also beaten Crystal Palace by the odd goal, seen Aston Villa deny them until the final seconds of stoppage time and toiled to victory against Brighton. Klopp's team ended up winning all of those games, but none of them could be described as easy fixtures in which they coasted to victory.
Teams in the bottom half of the table have made Liverpool earn their victories this season. None has rolled over and gifted them the points.
Liverpool, however, have always found a way to win. In the one game from which they didn't emerge with three points, against Manchester United at Old Trafford in October, it was their refusal to be beaten that drove them to earn a draw through Adam Lallana's late equaliser.
So while it is tempting to decry the lack of depth and quality, the reality of the games points to a different story. And when Liverpool lift the Premier League trophy, it will be because they have overcome every challenge that has been thrown at them. Even by the team sitting at the bottom of the table.