Jurgen Klopp calls for perfection from his Liverpool side as they aim to start cutting the gap to Premier League leaders Manchester City in title race
- Liverpool head into Tuesday’s clash with Leicester City six points off the top
- Manchester City lead the way and are predicted to get stronger during title race
- Jurgen Klopp has called for Reds to ‘defend at the top level’ to keep up with City
- Liverpool saw a six-match winning run in the Premier League end at Tottenham
Jurgen Klopp has given Liverpool’s squad a blunt indicator of the standards they must reach in 2022 and warned perfection will be required for them to become champions again.
Liverpool face Leicester in their final fixture of the calendar year on Tuesday night and this to the King Power Stadium is symbolic, as it was here two years ago they delivered the finest performance in their title-winning campaign with a 4-0 skewering of Brendan Rodgers’s team.
There is an argument to say Liverpool have been playing as well this season as they did in 2019-20 but the brutal fact is they face Leicester six points behind league leaders Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand. They can ill-afford for that gap to get any bigger.
Jurgen Klopp has called for Liverpool to be at their best to catch Man City in the title race
Liverpool are among the title contenders and only trail City by six points with a game in hand
Klopp knows the pace that City are setting is relentless and as they historically get stronger in the second half of the campaign, one false step is likely to mean Pep Guardiola’s side will disappear over the horizon. It is why Liverpool’s manager feels they may even need the best football of his reign.
‘The consistency the boys show is incredible but that is the only chance you have,’ said Klopp. ‘In a league with probably the best team in the world, it is really tricky to be ahead of them. So far, at least, we are not completely out of reach. It is not like we have no chance anymore.
‘But you know City won’t drop a lot of points, so you better not drop a lot of points yourself. What do we have to do better? First and foremost we have to defend at the top level, that is what gives you the chance for consistency and on top of that we improved a lot football wise.
‘Without being at least as consistent as we have been we have no chance then if we really want to go for a big one then we have to be even more consistent. We will see if that is possible or not but we will give it a try.’
Klopp added: ‘I think City and us push each other to crazy heights. Imagine if we had won the Champions League final (2018) the season before we won it? Imagine we had won the Premier League (2019) the season before we won it. It would be absolutely crazy what these players did.
City they have proven relentless this season and thumped Leicester City 6-3 on Boxing Day
Klopp has now challenged his team to be at their very best to overcome a City side who under Pep Guardiola (right) tend to get better as the season goes on
‘But we didn’t win that Champions League final (against Real Madrid) and we didn’t win the Premier League. You can say a point (City 98, Liverpool 97) but, for me, it was 11 millimetres (when John Stones cleared Mo Salah’s shot off the line). Their consistency over such a long time was crazy.’
The German’s demand for defending of the highest quality will be helped this evening by the return of Virgil van Dijk, who has recovered after testing positive for Covid-19 and missing games against Tottenham and Leicester in the Carabao Cup.
Monday marked the fourth anniversary of Liverpool announcing his then world record £75million move from Southampton and his performances since returning from cruciate ligament damage have been getting progressively better.
Liverpool’s six-match winning run in the top flight came to an end with a 2-2 draw at Tottenham
But the Reds will be boosted ahead of facing Leicester with news of Virgil van Dijk’s return
63 – Leicester have shipped 63 goals in 2021 in the League — only in two top-flight years have they shipped more, 2001 (66) and 2017 (64).
‘He’s now back to his best for sure,’ said Klopp. ‘What helps us a lot and what helps him a lot is that we have options around that we don’t have to push him through in the moments when his body is giving a sign that he needs to step aside for a moment.
‘That’s very helpful. That’s why the situation is very good. Virgil’s arrival was obviously a big day in our common history and it is a good example for a winter transfer and how it works.’
Leicester certainly have it within them to cause huge problems for Liverpool but Rodgers is furious about the physical demands that have been placed on his squad and believes the 48-hour turnaround from their 6-3 defeat at City on Boxing Day is a nonsense.
‘It’s a ridiculous schedule, we all know that,’ Rodgers said. ‘Players aren’t fully recovered for 72 hours after a game so for us to be playing Liverpool (so soon) is ridiculous. We have to play the game so there will be just recovery work, we’ll look at some videos and prepare from there.’
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