The month of May is a storyline-generation machine for European soccer. There are titles getting decided everywhere, anxious relegation races to follow and tickets to UEFA competitions to punch. There are also, of course, the final rounds of said UEFA competitions. If something memorable is going to happen in a given season, the odds are good that it will happen in May (or, when there are strange circumstances like, for instance, a winter World Cup, early June).

Even taking title races and the Champions League out of the equation, there's just so much to follow. Here are seven of my favorite stories as we dive into the final matches of 2022-23.


Liverpool attempting another magic act

March 7, 2021: Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool lost 1-0 to relegation-level Fulham to fall to eighth place with what was, per FiveThirtyEight's SPI ratings, just a 20% chance of rallying to finish in the top four. Their odds of playing in the 2021-22 Champions League were dim.

They proceeded to pull 26 points from their final 10 matches, winning their last five outright and miraculously finishing third. (They would go on to reach the final of the Champions League that they rallied to qualify for.)

April 1, 2023: Liverpool lost 4-1 to Manchester City to fall to eighth place with what was, again per SPI, just an 11% chance of climbing back into a Champions League spot.

They have proceeded to pull 23 points from their next nine matches, winning seven in a row. They are one point behind both third-place Newcastle United and fourth-place Manchester United with two matches remaining.

It sure feels like history is repeating itself on Merseyside, doesn't it? In both 2020-21 and 2022-23, Liverpool fell far behind the pack thanks to defensive breakdowns. They currently rank second in the Premier League in shots allowed per possession but are a distant last in expected goals (xG) allowed per shot, just as they did two years ago. The reasons for those breakdowns are a bit different — two years ago, all their center-backs got hurt; this year it seems a stale midfield has faced the brunt of the blame — but the effect has been the same. So has the late-year rally.

It's not exactly the same this time, though. For one thing, both Newcastle and Man United have a game in hand. Entering their final two matches, SPI still gives Liverpool only a 37% chance of a top-four finish, with both the third- and fourth-place teams at 81%. (Brighton & Hove Albion, eight points back but with four matches still to play, also have a 2% chance.)

Liverpool face a torrid Aston Villa on Saturday but at least get them at home before finishing on the road against an already-relegated Southampton. Newcastle still have to face Brighton and an increasingly desperate Leicester City, and while Manchester United's remaining foes (AFC Bournemouth, Chelsea and Fulham) have little to play for, the Red Devils have been inconsistent of late. Liverpool could still pull this off. Again.