Klopp calm for the run-in

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane scoring an audacious back-heeled goal past Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster in the leaders' 5-0 Premier League victory at Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane scoring an audacious back-heeled goal past Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster in the leaders' 5-0 Premier League victory at Anfield on Wednesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

He urges Reds to keep up attack as City boss Guardiola says both teams will drop points

LONDON • The Premier League title race is the most competitive it has been for years, but Jurgen Klopp is not having a "heart attack" whenever he hears nearest challengers Manchester City have won.

The Liverpool boss was asked for his take after Pep Guardiola's men edged out West Ham 1-0 at home on Wednesday thanks to a contentious Sergio Aguero spot kick.

The German said: "I don't think you need an answer from me. We only need to play football and to win games, then we will see what happens.

"It's a normal thing. If you are top of the table, it's pretty likely that all the contenders win. That's how it is. I didn't think about City, but it is of course what I expected."

He knows that when his team deliver "a good example of how football should look", they have every chance of ending 29 years of title hurt. The 5-0 mauling of Watford at Anfield to maintain their one-point lead at the top was Liverpool's biggest victory of the season.

Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk both scored twice and Divock Origi was also on the scoresheet, leaving Klopp purring at the team's vintage attacking display.

Challenging his side to "play like this every day", he said: "That is maybe sometimes possible, sometimes a bit less. But you have to be stable, and the boys were always stable and really fluent offensively.

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    Sadio Mane has beaten his best Premier League goal haul of 13 (2016-17) with his double against Watford.

"Let's try to do it again."

He also hit back at pundits who claimed Liverpool's goals have dried up after being held goal-less in their past two games.

He added: "We draw against Bayern (Munich) and (Manchester) United and everybody talks about, I don't know exactly what about, but things I don't understand.

"It's always about showing reactions, but not reactions of the things we are talking about."

He made a tactical tweak by playing Mane in the middle in Roberto Firmino's absence and it worked wonders as his pace gave the Reds a new attacking dimension.

His second goal - a back-heeled flick - in particular caught the eye and the Senegal forward, who is enjoying his most prolific league campaign with 14 goals, revelled in "one (of the most adventurous goals) I've scored".

He said: "It was my first time since I came to Liverpool I played centrally. I always said I'm here for the team, so I try to play any position the coach asks me to play to help the team."

In contrast, Guardiola conceded City "could do better" but still praised his team for putting on "an incredible performance" despite the only goal being a "soft" penalty.

It was awarded after Felipe Anderson made contact with City substitute Bernardo Silva in the box.

Although the league champions were not at their best, the Spaniard felt it was the result of "tension after 120 minutes (against Chelsea in last Sunday's League Cup final)", before insisting it would be a case of which team will slip up the least in the 10-game title run-in.

He said: "Liverpool is a top side, we know that. Now we have a gap with the first two with the third, we're eight points (ahead of Tottenham), nine points for the leader.

"Many things are going to happen. We are going to drop points, Liverpool are going to drop points.

"It's important now to refresh, good recovery and prepare the game against Bournemouth."

Aguero has now scored 30 goals in his last 24 league starts at home, with every one of them ending in a City victory.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Klopp calm for the run-in'. Print Edition | Subscribe