The Reds Are Handily Placed Heading Into The International Break

The match against Manchester City over the weekend was a breathless affair, with the two teams going at each other hammer and tongs. The Reds unquestionably had the best of the opening half an hour, only for the home side to respond in the closing stages. City arguably also had the better of the second-half, but it looked as if both teams were happy to shake hands on a draw from about the hour mark. Certainly both teams were shattered, a sure sign of just what it takes out of you to go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the world. The draw was probably a fair result, even if it was arguably better for us than for them. It’s interesting that in the wake of the match the story that emerged from the two managers was one of puzzlement over the Premier League’s decision to eschew the opportunity to keep using five substitutes this season. We’re the only major league not doing so, once more indicating the British proclivity to assume exceptionalism.

Predictably, the country’s media opted for the angle that the two managers were just moaning, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be crying out about the poor nature of the European Championship when the tournament rolls around next summer. For now, it was good to see Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola on the same page over something, given that they’re the two best managers operating in the English top-flight at present. The match also did nothing to deter me from my feeling that it will be either us or the Cityzens that sit top of the league next May. Yes, the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City have shown that they have the ability to cause difficulties, but I think the sheer relentlessness of the season will take its toll on them both before the fat lady sings. Certainly I’ll be disappointed if we’re not at least involved in the conversation, with the draw at The Etihad representing an improvement on last season’s result in the same fixture.

We Have To Be Pleased With Our Points Tally

When it comes to mitigating factors around Liverpool’s position in the Premier League, the loss of Virgil van Dijk against Everton has to be a big one. The fact that all of Alisson Becker, Fabinho Tavares and Joel Matip have also been missing at one point or another since the beginning of the campaign also shouldn’t go unnoticed. It was a myth that the Reds didn’t have any injuries last time out, but even if it were true then we’re certainly making up for it in the latter half of 2020. That Liverpool’s defence barely gave up a decent chance to one of the best attacking sides in world football without the best defender on the planet was great to see. Indeed, the goal was a combination of poor fortune for us and good luck for Manchester City. When watching it back, it’s noteworthy that the problem was caused by Sadio Mané went to press a City defender and didn’t get back quickly enough to help out Andy Robertson, dragging Gini Wijnaldum out of position.

Even so, there was no way anyone could prepare for the absolute fluke of a touch from Gabriel Jesus, which the forward in no way intended. It put another point on the board for us, though, and means that we’re one point off the top having played Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton as well as tough games against West Ham United and Sheffield United. Our top spot rivals are facing each other in the coming weeks, meaning that they’ll have to take points from each other and we’ll be in a decent position to take advantage. With the likes of Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita all like to come back into the squad in time for a brutal December schedule, we will be hoping to bounce on from here. The truncated nature of this season means that a team’s ability to cope with injuries and bizarre results is going to be crucial. Thankfully, Jürgen Klopp has shown time and again that he knows exactly how to cope with adversity.

The Lead Up To Christmas Is Crucial

Before Father Christmas shuffles down the chimney wearing a mask and lays out presents in a socially distanced fashion, the Reds have to take on Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. That’s in addition to Champions League encounters with Atalanta, Ajax and FC Midtjylland. In other words, it’s a jam-packed schedule that simply doesn’t relent. If the Reds can come away with something like sixteen points from the eighteen available then we should all be very happy indeed. That the fixtures include matches against the Foxes and José Mourinho’s Spurs side should add a little bit of spice, with both teams currently ahead of us in the table but having to travel to Anfield. They, of course, will have points of their own to prove and we’ll have to be on our game to stop them from doing exactly that. Jürgen Klopp may be considering chopping off his defenders’ arms right now.

That could be the only way to stop them from giving away penalties, such is the nature of the new handball rule, with both Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane deadly from the penalty spot. The manager did show with his team selection at The Etihad that he’s happy to make other teams think about our attacking threat, but we won’t want to be left too open for the counter-attack in either match. The good news is that three wins from three in the Champions League means that one more will almost certainly allow us to take our foot off the gas for the final two games, rotating players to keep them fresh. We’re also much more likely to be able to cope with the Premier League going to three games a week than many of our rivals are, simply because we’ve been doing it for so long thanks to our European exploits. It’s difficult to see a scenario in which we win the league at a canter as we did last time out, but we’re handily placed to at least fight to defend it.

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