The calculation for Liverpool is now simple. It is no longer about the title race…but about ending an Anfield malaise that threatens their top four chances.
So there is no talk of a showdown with Manchester City, or of a game pivotal to the destination of the Premier League trophy. The only concern is ending a run so bad on their home ground, that it is the worst in almost 40 years.
It seems almost impossible that the Reds should be talking of an Anfield weakness. This is the all conquering team that set an all-time club record of 68 league matches unbeaten on their home ground, which was ended only a fortnight ago.
Yet now they have gone three league games without scoring a goal on the hallowed turf, the first time since 1984, and have in fact scored just one goal in their last four at Anfield, recording two solitary points – unheard of for a team who are still second in the league’s goalscoring charts.
It is why the focus is firmly on returning to winning ways full stop on Sunday…and nothing to do with Manchester City.
“It’s just not clicking here,” Andy Robertson admitted after defeat to Brighton on Wednesday. “With a long record of going unbeaten we’ve lost two, but when you don’t show up you don’t get results.”
There are no illusions now at Liverpool. If their dismal Anfield record since mid-December continues, they will struggle to finish in the top four, given how much of a weapon their form on home turf has been in the past four years under Jurgen Klopp.
It is why Robertson said, with a grim honesty after the Brighton defeat, that the game against City isn’t a title argument. “We’re not in the title race – we are seven points behind them and they have a game in hand. I’m sure they’d say the same thing.”
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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.
Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.
But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.
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It is why too, that Fabinho – who is desperate to return from injury for the big game on Sunday – believes the City games offers a chance to restore battered pride, and belief…and perhaps a chance to begin a revival that consolidates their top four position.
“We need to win and perform to our best levels and get our confidence back fully. It is always a big game, but they are all important now, because we have so many games coming up against some of the leading teams,” he explained.
“We can use them to really improve the gap. We know the quality of this team, we know that we have the quality to be in a better position in the league table.
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“Sometimes you have difficult times in football and you just have to be together, work hard because you know the results can turn around just as quickly. The confidence will come back for sure.“
For Klopp, the extra day recovery after Brighton could make all the difference, for a side he believes are mentally fatigued. “We haven’t created enough, of course, but now we have now one day more to recover.
“Very often that it means the world actually to footballers and bodies in general. Hopefully we will use that.”