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Long dark nights almost over for New Zealand's Liverpool fans

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Years of getting up in the dark, early, hours of the morning to watch Liverpool’s English Premier League title hopes be dashed will end in the next week for thousands of fans in New Zealand according to the team’s official supporters club branch.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Everton v Liverpool - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - June 21, 2020 The matchball is pictured before the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Jon Super/Pool via REUTERS

Juergen Klopp’s side sit 20 points ahead of nearest challengers Manchester City with eight games remaining and could clinch their first English title since 1990 and first of the EPL era by the weekend.

“It’s going to happen. They’re so far ahead we know it’s going to happen,” Steve Raine, the secretary of the Liverpool supporters club in New Zealand confidently told Reuters ahead of their match against Crystal Palace on Thursday.

“There is no way they’re going to lose their next eight games, so they’re going to do it.

“It will be a mixture of relief and joy.”

Raine, 60, has followed Liverpool for almost 50 years and until recently was regularly getting up in the middle of the night to follow the team’s fortunes.

Thousands of others still do, he said, despite the timing of most EPL games being between 2-4 a.m. (1400-1600 GMT) in New Zealand, and liquor licensing laws restricting the number of large gatherings the club can organise.

While rugby union is New Zealand’s national sport, Raine said they get more than 350 people watching Liverpool games at events in New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland.

Hundreds more fill venues in other cities.

While there were almost 1,000 paid-up members of the club, Raine suspected the of Liverpool supporters in the country ran into thousands.

Despite a storied history, Raine said the inability of the team to win the Premier League title had gnawed away at the Liverpool faithful around the world.

“We’ve been close a few times. And been pipped twice in the modern era, he said. “But now this, is a fait accompli.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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