Liverpool are just recovering from a tight display against Bayern Munich last week where they were unable to break through against the German side in their Champions League knockout round first leg drawing 0-0. Yesterday they again were unable to score as an injury ravaged Manchester United side held them to another 0-0 draw in the Premier League even though the Reds were certainly the better side at Old Trafford.
While Bayern’s stock has fallen slightly in recent months, with many observers surprised that they trail Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga standings the German giants showed that they still have plenty of fight and class when they nullified Liverpool’s threat at Anfield last week in the Champions League.
While the games against Bayern and United were important and Klopp would have wanted wins, he will be content with draws in both games as they still lead the Premier League by 1 point and are still in with a good chance of advancing in the Champions League. There is a critical month ahead for the Reds, one that could dictate the rest of Liverpool’s season. Liverpool could not repeat their 3-1 mauling of Jose Mourinho’s Man United at Anfield before Christmas as playing United at Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer yesterday was a completely different proposition. The following fixtures come up over the next month:
Watford (H) 27th Feb
Everton (A) 3rd March
Burnley (H) 10th March
Bayern Munich (A) 13th March
Fulham (A) 17th March
Tottenham (H) 31st March
While it’s fashionable to talk about crucial games deciding titles, it’s important to remember that big wins count for nothing if they are not capitalised upon. We look at Liverpool teams in the past who would do the hard part – beating Everton at Goodison – then somehow drop points at Anfield against ‘lesser’ opposition, in this case Burnley and Fulham days later.
Yes, Klopp has created a team that punishes poorer teams – Liverpool’s record against teams outside the Top 6 this season is P19 W17 D2 L0 – but this is a gruelling period for the squad. One would feel Liverpool are due some respite after exiting the FA Cup, but the 6 games listed above are played across just 32 days. There could be very tired legs when the team arrives in Munich on 13th March, and London a few days later.
Of course after their 6-0 Chelsea win, Man City’s title odds were slashed so even if Klopp’s team get through this tough run in good shape, it feels like the title race is still going down to the wire. Let’s be frank about it: City have looked superb of late even though they could not score vs Chelsea in the Carabao Cup in 120 minutes of action they still had the composure to win on penalties. Bookmakers cut their odds to 4/6 (Betway) for the title after that hammering of Chelsea, whereas Liverpool have floated out slightly to 7/4 with the same bookie following their tie with United. Klopp will, of course, have his men focused on themselves rather than what’s happening up the road, but it’s clearly going to be close.
The squad is good enough to fight on two fronts, for sure. Indeed, it’s worth looking at Bet365’s price of 20/1 for the combined Champions League and Premier League double. A big ask, when Liverpool are 10/1 to win just the Champions League alone, but if you fancy Liverpool to break their 29 year streak without a title win you can use the Free Bets UK guide to take advantage of their value betting offers, simply visit the site to get details on the latest betting deals for your Liverpool bet as surely the Reds will end this season with silverware.
Going back to the daunting fixture list for the moment, Liverpool should be simultaneously confident and wary about all their fixtures as they hunt down the title despite their manager revealing that he cannot enjoy Liverpool’s title challenge. The Merseyside Derby against Everton should be very carefully managed while Watford will face the Reds on the back of a 4-1 hammering of Fulham while Burnley beat Spurs on Saturday so they are a much tougher proposition now compared to earlier in the season. For the Everton game, it’s going to be tricky regardless of what pressure Marco Silva is under at the club. It’ll be the fourth game in 11 days for the team, a derby is not the type of game the players will relish after such an intense period.
In the end, to be champions, whether that’s English, European or both, these are the sorts of periods Liverpool need to get through and they will need top scorer Mo Salah to be at his best particularly after Roberto Firmino went off injured yesterday. The team could end up battered and bruised, but if they come out the other side of the Tottenham game still in the lead ahead of City and Spurs, the rest of the final games could open up nicely with the schedule of the last 6 games looking relatively kind to Liverpool as they will only have Chelsea and Wolves left to play from the top half of the table and fortunately both games are at home.