Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp has admitted the team’s title hopes are over after the Reds slumped 3-1 to Leicester in a Premier League clash on Saturday, their third consecutive loss.
Jurgen Klopp’s men could find themselves down in sixth by the time Chelsea and West Ham play winnable home games on Monday night.
“I don’t think we can close that gap this year, to be honest. We have to win football games and big parts of our football was today again really, really good. We have to do it consistently,” the German said after the match as posted on the club’s website.
“We have to avoid mistakes, we have to avoid misunderstandings. We cannot avoid mistakes of VAR or stuff like this, but all the rest that is in our hands we have to avoid.
“Today, in two situations we didn’t do that and that’s why they could score two goals. The rest of the football game is really good. Yes, if you win football games maybe you could score today more goals, but that’s the steps you have to make.
“First, you have to perform again; the result is always massively related to the performance. And we were today good enough to win the game for a long, long period in the game, but not until the end because of a couple of things.”
Liverpool and Manchester United face off on Sunday as the Premier League’s top two teams for the first time since 1997 — with the rivalry between England’s most successful clubs rekindled by a fascinating title race.
United top the table after the New Year for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 thanks to an 11-match unbeaten run to take them past Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Liverpool have surrendered top spot after three league games without a win and could drop to fifth place on Sunday if results go against them.
The last time United and Liverpool locked horns in a title race was 12 years ago.
Back then United were hardened winners under Ferguson, who saw off Rafael Benitez’s challengers to win a third consecutive league title.
Now it is United who Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits are the “hunters” chasing the champions.
Ferguson, who arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 with United firmly in Liverpool’s shadow, once famously said his goal was to knock them “off their perch” and he went on to win 13 league titles.
But United have been displaced as top dogs even in their own city by Manchester City.
And fans have been forced to watch Klopp spearhead another era of glory at Anfield, winning the Champions League in 2019 before ending the club’s 30-year wait for a league title last season — putting them just one behind United’s record tally of 20.
But, in a strange and at times soulless season in empty stadiums, the relentless consistency shown by Liverpool in recent years has dropped off.
Hampered by a series of injuries, most notably to talismanic centre-back Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool have already dropped more points in 17 games than they have in either of the past two seasons.
That has allowed United to overtake them despite a slow start to their own campaign.
Solskjaer’s men won just two of their opening six games, suffering a humiliating 6-1 reverse at the hands of Tottenham at Old Trafford.
– ‘We’re in it’ – But, on the road, United’s form has been remarkably consistent. Come Sunday, it will be almost a year to the day since they last lost an away game in domestic competition — on their last visit to Anfield.
Since then Bruno Fernandes’ arrival has helped transform United’s fortunes. On Friday, the Portugal playmaker won his fourth Premier League player-of-the-month award in 2020 by picking up the prize for December.
“Unfortunately a good signing for United,” said Klopp. “He is a very influential player for United obviously, involved in a lot of things.
“I know people talk mostly about the goal involvements, which is very important stuff, but he is a link-up in a lot of other situations as well.”
Without the silverware on his CV to rival Klopp or City boss Pep Guardiola, Solskjaer’s credentials for one of the biggest jobs in football are questioned every time he has a couple of bad results.
But the Norwegian has guided United into a position his more storied predecessors, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, could not manage.
“The last few years, there have been two teams running away with it already by the end of October,” said Solskjaer.
“Now, at least, we’re in it at half-way. We’re a much better side now than a year ago.”
Questions remain over whether United’s revival is for real or another false dawn, of which there have been several in the post-Ferguson era.
Liverpool’s three-decade drought without a league title stands as a warning of how far even giants can fall.
One of Klopp’s first iconic phrases when taking charge in 2015 was his ambition to change the fatalism around the club’s mentality from “doubter to believer”.
Should United become the first visiting side to win at Anfield in the league for nearly four years, it is they who will have the new-found confidence that a 21st league title in 2021 is possible.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his side are in “good shape” as they visit defending champions Liverpool in a Premier League showdown on Sunday.
Solskjaer believes the game could not have come at a better time after moving top of the Premier League for the first time in three years.
Paul Pogba’s deflected strike earned United a hard-fought 1-0 win at Burnley on Tuesday to move three points of clear of Liverpool, who have failed to win in their last three league games.
“It’s a brilliant position to be in,” said a smiling Solskjaer, whose future as manager had been under threat just a few months ago after a slow start to the season and group-stage exit from the Champions League.
“We know we are going to the champions, they’ve had an unbelievable three-and-a-half seasons, we know that’s going to be a difficult game, but we’re ready for it.
“We couldn’t be going there at a better time to play them because we are in good shape, good form, hungry, these boys want to get better and that’s a test again.”
In recent weeks Pogba has become an increasingly important influence in United’s first serious title challenge since Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager in 2013.
The French World Cup winner dominated the midfield in the second half at Turf Moor and fittingly got the winner when his strike from the edge of the box took a deflection off Matt Lowton to wrong-foot Nick Pope.
Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola has spoken openly about wanting to move his client on at the end of the season, but Solskjaer insisted the 27-year-old is a major part of his plans.
“I’ve always said Paul is a big, big player for us,” added Solskjaer. “He is a good character in the dressing room, he is always one the lads look to (because) he’s a world champion.
“We are seeing the best of Paul at the moment. He’s getting better and better every game.”
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp moved to dismiss speculation over Egypt forward Mohamed Salah’s future saying on Thursday he is happy at the Premier League champions.
The 28-year-old gave an interview in Spain last week in which he said Barcelona and Real Madrid were top clubs and “who knows what will happen in the future”.
This led to speculation over whether he was seeking a new longer-term contract beyond 2023 or he was upset Trent Alexander-Arnold had been given the captain’s armband for the Champions League group match with Midtjylland.
Liverpool’s romp to a first league title in 30 years with a record seven games of the season remaining could herald a golden new era for the Reds with Jurgen Klopp at the helm.
Klopp has delivered the holy grail of a long-awaited league title to Anfield, a year after winning the club’s sixth European Cup.
Further records could yet tumble before the season is out, with Liverpool on course for an all-time high Premier League points tally and the biggest-ever margin of victory.
A 23-point gap to Manchester City is all the more remarkable given how Pep Guardiola’s men themselves have raised the bar in recent seasons.
“How is it possible anybody is 20 points ahead of this team?” Klopp himself said after watching City’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley on Monday.
City’s brilliance has pushed Liverpool to new heights.
Even during the trophy-laden 1970s and 80s at Anfield, Liverpool never amassed as many points as they have in losing just two of their past 70 league games.
A 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on Wednesday was a 23rd consecutive Premier League win at home.
“It is not over yet, that’s the good thing,” said an emotional Klopp, who extended his contract until 2024 earlier this season. “The team all look like they have a good few years in their legs.”
The club have also tied down a core group of key players to long contracts over the past two years.
– Legacy –
Wayne Rooney helped win five of Alex Ferguson’s 13 league titles during the Scot’s spell as Manchester United manager and believes Klopp could leave a similar legacy.
“They have huge potential to win more trophies,” Rooney, a former Everton and United captain, begrudgingly admitted in his Sunday Times column.
“Klopp says it’s impossible for any club to dominate like United once did but he is wrong,” added Rooney. “There’s a simple way for Liverpool: let Klopp go on and on.”
City boss Guardiola highlighted Liverpool’s “passion” as the key component his side could not match.
And Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson urged his teammates to remain “hungry” and “keep wanting more” next season.
– More than a two-horse race –
However, plenty of hurdles stand in Liverpool’s way if they are to establish such a spell of dominance, principally City’s reaction to losing their title.
“When we retained the title we were the first for 10 years so you know how difficult it is to do that,” Guardiola warned this week.
As it stands, City will also be banned from European competition for the next two seasons.
Should their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport next month fail it could be a fatal blow in the push to convince Guardiola to stay beyond the end of his contract in 2021, but would also allow City to concentrate their resources on toppling Liverpool domestically.
Unlike the past two seasons, the title race may be more than a two-horse race in 2020/21.
Chelsea’s 2-1 win over City on Thursday was the result that finally crowned Liverpool champions and the Blues have already stated their intention to challenge with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
Manchester United are unbeaten in 13 games, with the January signing of Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes transforming their fortunes.
Other factors such as the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, still scheduled to take place from January 10 to February 8, could also play a huge role in Liverpool’s title defence should Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane be absent for two months in the middle of the season.
The return of the AFCON to the European winter had seen Werner strongly linked with a move to Anfield.
However, the economic fallout from coronavirus meant Liverpool were not willing to commit to meeting the German international’s 60 million euro ($67 million) buyout clause from RB Leipzig.
The chemistry between Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino has been key to Liverpool’s rise from struggling to qualify for the Champions League to the dizzy heights of European and English champions.
“The front three we know are as good as anything in Europe,” said former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher.
“They don’t miss too many games but when they do there is a massive drop-off and that’s why I feel Liverpool still need to strengthen.”
For the first time in three decades, though, Liverpool can build from a position of strength to tighten their grip on the Premier League rather than playing catch-up.
Jurgen Klopp’s men sealed a 19th league title for the club with a record seven games left to play after City’s defeat left them 23 points adrift of Liverpool at the top.
Liverpool had moved within two points of the title with a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.
Their 28th win in 31 league games this season prompted Liverpool star Mohamed Salah to declare “now is our time to win the league” and 24 hours later his wish was granted.
Liverpool got the favour they wanted from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Willian’s 78th minute penalty, awarded for a handball by Fernandinho, ended City’s two-year reign as champions after Kevin De Bruyne had cancelled out Christian Pulisic’s opener.
Liverpool have clinched the title earlier than any other Premier League champions, breaking the previous record of five games left shared by City and Manchester United.
It has been an agonising wait for Liverpool fans across the world, with the coronavirus hiatus forcing them to put the champagne on ice after the Premier League was suspended in March with Klopp’s team two wins from the title.
The three-month delay was a final obstacle on Liverpool’s long road back to the pinnacle of English football.
Liverpool spent years in the shadow of arch-rivals Manchester United during the Alex Ferguson era before being left behind by the massive spending of Manchester City and Chelsea.
Then managed by Brendan Rodgers, they infamously squandered a golden opportunity to win the title in 2014 when Reds captain Steven Gerrard made his costly slip in a late-season defeat against Chelsea.
But Klopp’s team are deserved champions after an incredible campaign that could end in record-breaking style.
Liverpool, who are now one title behind Manchester United’s English record haul of 20, are on course to beat Manchester City’s record points total of 100 set in 2017/18.
Klopp’s men could smash the record for the biggest winning margin, set by City when they finished 19 points clear at the top in that same season.
They are also within touching distance of the most victories in a Premier League season — 32 by City in 2017/18 and 2018/19.
– We can play pretty good –
Klopp, the first German manager to win the Premier League, has been the architect of Liverpool’s renaissance since the former Borussia Dortmund boss arrived at Anfield in 2015.
Infusing his players with a belief in his “heavy metal” football and high-tempo “gegen-pressing” game-plan, the charismatic Klopp has earned his place alongside Liverpool’s iconic former managers Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.
When Dalglish led Liverpool to the title in 1990, the prize Shankly once described as the club’s “bread and butter” was almost taken for granted after two decades of dominance.
Following years of underachievement, Klopp has brought his unique style and major trophies back to Liverpool.
They won the Champions League last season, when they beat Tottenham in the final, 12 months after losing to Real Madrid at the same stage of the competition.
Liverpool were pipped to the title by Manchester City on the final day of last season, finishing with a record 97 points for top-flight runners-up.
But with Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino forming a formidable front three, Jordan Henderson a tireless presence in midfield and Virgil van Dijk imperious at the back, Liverpool have left City trailing in their wake this season.
It was fitting that Liverpool saved one of their most eye-catching performances for the week the title was won.
After destroying Palace, Klopp said: “Imagine if the stadium could have been full and people could have experienced that live. It would have been amazing.
“This game will last a while in my mind, this is what we want to be.
“We cannot play like other teams, but we can play pretty good stuff.”
Klopp’s frustration that matches are being played behind closed doors at present will fade in time.
It will be the memories left by his transcendent team that linger longest.
Historians on the Kop will surely rank this Liverpool side, also crowned Club World champions in December, alongside the 1979 and 1988 vintages as one of the greatest to wear the famous red shirt.
Liverpool will be crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years without kicking a ball on Thursday if Manchester City fail to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Jurgen Klopp’s men moved to the brink of a long-awaited Premier League title in style by thumping Crystal Palace 4-0 on their return to Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool hold a 23-point lead over defending champions City, who have eight games to play, meaning their 19th English title — and first Premier League crown — is just a matter of time.
The European champions’ long wait to return to the summit of English football has been extended by three months due to the unprecedented coronavirus shutdown.
Fears that a potentially record-breaking season could be declared null and void were quickly dismissed, but the Premier League’s return has offered the Reds the chance to seal the title on the pitch rather than on a points-per-game formula.
If City manage to keep the title race alive at Chelsea, a point would be good enough for Liverpool to win the league when they travel to Manchester in a clash between the top two on July 2.
Klopp said he would be watching Thursday’s game in London, not to will on Frank Lampard’s side but to prepare for the game against City.
“I watch the game not to prepare a celebration but we play City a week later and also Chelsea,” said the German. “It will happen when it happens.”
City boss Pep Guardiola said on Wednesday his priority is Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final rather than prolonging Liverpool’s wait and he could rest players ahead of the trip to Newcastle at the weekend.
– Liverpool hit form –
After a slow start on their return in a 0-0 draw at neighbours Everton on Sunday, Liverpool showed why they are champions-elect with a demolition of Palace at an empty Anfield.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane were all on the scoresheet as Klopp’s men showed the combination of flair and determination that have made them such an unstoppable force this season.
England international Alexander-Arnold admitted many of his teammates would be tuning into events in London on Thursday but wants Liverpool to go on and rewrite the record books no matter when they clinch the title.
City set the Premier League points record of 100 two seasons ago, but Klopp’s side could still reach 107.
“A lot of us will watch it tomorrow but not get too excited,” said Alexander-Arnold.
“We’ve still got to prepare for the game next week regardless. We’ve still got seven games left and we’re going to try and get all 21 points from those games.”
Liverpool dominated English football in the 1970s and 1980s before ceding their position to Manchester United, who have won a record 20 titles in total.
Seven different clubs have won the English top-flight since Liverpool last tasted success under Kenny Dalglish in 1990 — two years before the launch of the Premier League.
Klopp took his side to within a whisker of glory last year, finishing a single point behind City, despite posting a club record tally of 97 points.
Salah, who has formed a devastating forward partnership with Roberto Firmino and Mane, said it was Liverpool’s “time”.
“Since I came here I said I want to win the Premier League with the team,” he told Sky Sports. “City didn’t win it for a long time, so it was the right time.
“Maybe last year we had a chance to win it but Man City also performed really good and they won it. It’s our time to win it and it’s great.”