Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool face the Premier League’s ultimate challenge on Sunday – but he scotched the idea their clash at Manchester City will be key to the destiny of the title.
Reigning champions Liverpool have made a bright start to the current campaign, albeit with a major blip in their 7-2 loss at Aston Villa, while City are gradually picking up form.
Many expect the race for silverware in the English top flight to again come down to the teams led by Klopp and Pep Guardiola, yet Liverpool’s manager says that is far too presumptuous.
He nevertheless sees the trip to City as a major test of his team’s robustness this term.
Liverpool have been blown away at the Etihad Stadium before, losing their last three league games there by an 11-1 aggregate.
Klopp said Liverpool must be “brave, play football and defend with all we have”.
“And then, yes, we have a chance, but it’s very difficult,” he explained. “This is the most difficult game in the world of football, to play against Man City, and so we have to prepare for that.
“It’s of course nothing even close to a title decider. Nobody can know what it will be like at matchday 38. Whatever happens on Sunday will not decide the league.
“Too many things can happen, especially in this year.”
Clearly, although they have been the dominant teams in recent campaigns, the notion of a likely battle at the top between Liverpool and City does not appeal to Klopp.
He sees others coming into contention this season, which is already shaping up as an unusual campaign, with football being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and games being played behind closed doors.
For Liverpool and City to run away from the pack is something Klopp finds hard for foresee.
“I never saw it like this, I don’t know where that’s coming from,” said the former Borussia Dortmund boss.
“Each season starts at nil. We all have the same chance and it’s about how you fight together as a team, as a group, how lucky are you with injuries.
“For me, this two-horse race thing was never a phrase I not only didn’t use, I didn’t even think. I’m interested in only one horse and that’s us.
“Chelsea and Tottenham are really good, Arsenal are really good, Leicester are really good, Everton are unfortunately really good.
“There are a lot of teams fighting. People write off Manchester United pretty early and in the end they will be there as well.”
Liverpool will be out to achieve something they have found difficult at City in recent times: to keep it tight at the back.
The Reds have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 10 away league games against City, conceding 26 goals in total in that run and taking just five points.
If Liverpool do end up chasing the game from behind this weekend, Klopp can at least anticipate they will battle to come back.
Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Liverpool have won a league-high 28 points from losing positions in the Premier League, and they have come from behind to win each of their last two games in the top flight.
Champions can be defined by such records.
“We all fight for the Champions League spots. When you are close enough to that, you can be champion at the end of the season,” Klopp added. “It’s so early in the season. I don’t know who will be the top horse at the end of this season.”