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Jurgen Klopp knows Liverpool can’t hide next time they face Manchester City

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With Liverpool trailing Manchester City by 14 points in January, Jurgen Klopp was reluctant to consider his side returning to the top of the Premier League this season.

Even as the Kop praised the feat of leapfrogging the champions with a win over Watford at lunchtime kick-off, it was recognized the stint could be temporary.

Kevin De Bruyne had already given City the lead at Burnley before Klopp had a chance to reflect on what it feels like to be on top. “City has already settled one of your questions, haven’t they?” Klopp smiled as he took his seat in the post-match press conference.

That didn’t diminish the psychological impact of another crucial win, however, with Liverpool planning their rebound with the aplomb of Haile Gebrselassie.

This was Liverpool’s 10th consecutive Premier League win and 10th consecutive home win in the league. That such a recovery has given them a 50-50 shot at the title rather than making the final eight games a formality is a tribute to the exceptional level of both contenders. “I told the lads yesterday if someone had told us in the summer at the end of March/beginning of April we were in the situation we’re in, won a trophy, in three competitions, full squad available, we should take it all . ‘ said Klopp.

“The only better situation would be to be 20 points ahead of City, but that’s not possible. I don’t think we’re favorites in any of the competitions we’re in, but who cares.”

That last observation was a reminder that a City triple is as conceivable as a Liverpool quadruple, all roads leading to the super heavyweight showdown at the Etihad next weekend – the Premier League version of Ali v Fraser.

But amid the potentially crucial nature of this meeting, there were enough lessons that no games – even against sides struggling against relegation – are a formality. It was only when Fabinho converted a penalty in the 89th minute to double Liverpool’s lead that Anfield’s fears eased, while Roy Hodgson regretted his side’s squandering of two of the game’s best chances, Juraj Kucka and Joao Pedro, reaching out for them and only Alisson could be beaten.

Liverpool predictably exuded class and control without being the most pervasive. They led from the 22nd minute as Diogo Jota demonstrated why he brings back memories of Robbie Fowler.

TThe Portuguese striker celebrated his 20th win of the season with a header that the former Liverpool No9 specialized in, firing from the penalty spot and timing the run perfectly before securing his place.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was only fit enough to start on the bench. His second-in-command Joe Gomez showed he was just as good at providing support from right-back, delivering the cross for his Portuguese team-mate.

Jota’s goal ended a groundbreaking 60 seconds. Watford – as organized as one would expect under Hodgson – could have been in the lead when Kucka charged at Alisson only for his shot to find the Brazilian’s chest.

Alisson has something of Peter Schmeichel. His presence seems to ward off attackers as much as his stopping shot, strikers so rarely see opportunities that they panic when they present themselves. Pedro suffered a similar fate on 57 minutes when he fired his foot wide after a skillful assist from Ismaila Sarr. Watford would not threaten again.

Nonetheless, it was an encouraging performance from Watford, a few notches better than when they were hammered by Liverpool at Vicarage Road. They are no longer among the bottom three teams in the league.

Had Hodgson been responsible sooner, there is ample evidence that they would not be in such danger.

Liverpool appeared capable of walking the aisles and Thiago and Roberto Firmino happily indulged in any opportunity to indulge in tricks.

But the competition ended when Var ruled that Kucka had attacked Jota just before full-time in rugby. The officers deserved more praise than criticism, although Hodgson was amused. “I find it difficult to understand a situation where nobody sees anything and then the game is interrupted,” he said. “It leaves a pretty bad taste in the mouth.”

Fabinho’s conversion prompted Kop chants of ‘we’re going to win the league’. Next weekend’s trip to the Etihad will make it clearer if that’s misplaced confidence. “The next Premier League game is a big one,” said Klopp. “We can’t hide from that.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/jurgen-klopp-knows-next-game-against-manchester-city-is-the-one-liverpool-cant-hide-from-41515354.html Jurgen Klopp knows Liverpool can’t hide next time they face Manchester City

Fry Electronics Team

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