LONDON (AP) — Through financial turmoil, court battles and humbling setbacks in recent years, Liverpool has risen to the top this season and reached a noteworthy milestone in England.
Ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, the Reds lead the Premier League heading into the traditional Boxing Day games on Thursday.
"It is a nostalgic time and people always want to know where the team is at around Christmas Day," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said Tuesday. "It is brilliant for supporters. I am not going to deny them a dream."
The last four Christmas Day leaders went on to lift the trophy in May. The last not to was Liverpool in the 2008-09 season under Rafa Benitez.
So much has changed since then.
"It has been a hard period in this club for four or five years and (being top) was probably a distant thought," Rodgers said. "They have to enjoy it."
Staring into the financial abyss in 2010, bankruptcy was looming until the owners were ousted in court and new American investors, headed by John Henry, rescued the club.
But the Reds still seemed to be a team in decline. A return to the lucrative Champions League by finishing in the top four seemed unlikely, let alone a 19th English title — and the first since 1990.
Even after former great Kenny Dalglish was replaced as manager by Brendan Rodgers in 2012, Henry's heavy investment in the squad didn't seem to be paying off.
Rodgers' first season ended in May with Liverpool 28 points behind champion Manchester United and 12 points adrift of fourth place.
Since then, Luis Suarez was denied a move to Arsenal, and has scored 19 goals in 12 matches since missing the opening five games while completing a biting ban.
The Uruguay striker has been devastating up front in December — with no new disciplinary problems. Four goals against Norwich were followed by doubles against West Ham, Tottenham and Cardiff as the team scored 17 while rattling off four wins.
Only 2012 champion Manchester City can match such lethalness, with a league-leading 51 goals.
On Thursday, Liverpool visits Man City, which is in third place and has won three of its last four league games by scoring 14 goals.
The game at the Etihad Stadium should show how ready Liverpool is to retain its place among the elite.