Big Match

League is not won in January: Klopp

Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri (right) celebrating his second goal with Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum in the 3-1 Premier League home win over Manchester United on Dec 16.
Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri (right) celebrating his second goal with Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum in the 3-1 Premier League home win over Manchester United on Dec 16.PHOTO: REUTERS

Liverpool boss says title race won't end after City game, Aguero eyes streak against Reds

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp believes that the English Premier League title race is not over for Manchester City yet even if his Liverpool side beat the champions today.

Ahead of today's clash at the Etihad Stadium, Liverpool are top of the league on 54 points from 20 unbeaten games, seven points ahead of City (47) while second-placed Tottenham have 48.

"If we were 10 points behind, would I say we can't catch them? Of course not. It's (only) Jan 3. It's a motivation for them 100 per cent and we need to be ready," the Reds manager said.

The German arrived at his pre-match press conference at the club's Melwood training ground yesterday in a jovial mood, saying to reporters: "Happy New Year to all of you! So far nothing to moan about."

He was upset, however, with how Liverpool are considered favourites for today's clash and talk of them being champions when the season has only passed the halfway stage.

"People say we go there most likely to win... It's not true. It's not reality," he said. "When I pass people on the streets, it's still normal life. Do they like how the boys are playing? For sure. But it's a lack of respect to think our fans are celebrating already.

"It will be a very difficult game. City are a really strong football team with an outstanding manager. We have to be brave and full of desire. They are the best team in the world, that is my opinion.

CITY ARE THE BEST

It will be a very difficult game. City are a really strong football team with an outstanding manager. We have to be brave and full of desire. They are the best team in the world, that is my opinion.

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, weighing up the reigning champions Manchester City.

CHANCE TO SHOW WE ARE THE BEST

I have a feeling there is a big opportunity for us to reduce the gap. Our focus is the same. We are going to try to make our game, to be there and be fighting for the Premier League for as far as possible.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Manchester City manager, smelling blood against the league leaders.

"The points change, but the preparations don't."

His opposite number Pep Guardiola tried to rally his men, saying that "nobody" thinks City are going to win the showdown.

He said yesterday: "It is Liverpool, with (Manchester) United the best team in England in history. But we can beat them. I know today nobody trusts us, nobody makes one coin for us, but it is what it is.

"They are in the moment the best team in Europe, in the consistency, the way they control the details in their game.

"The reality is clear, we are seven points down... (but) a lot of points to play for. Everybody is asking me what will happen if you lose.

"I have a feeling there is a big opportunity for us to reduce the gap."

His men will have to breach a backline that has conceded just eight goals, with the addition of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker and a first full season with the world's most expensive defender Virgil van Dijk.

After a slow start, the front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are also beginning to hit top form, scoring in the same league game for the first time this season last Saturday in the 5-1 home win over Arsenal.

"Results and performances give confidence. We have results and performances. Our boys have quality. As long as we mix up potential with attitude, there will be quality," Klopp added of his side, who have won nine straight league games.

City, on the other hand, have been on a poor run of late, losing three of their past five league games including two in a row against Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

They looked to have turned things around with a 3-1 win over Southampton, but Liverpool will be a completely different test.

The champions have found it difficult against the Reds, winning just four of the 16 meetings between the two since the Manchester club won the Premier League in 2012.

They are also currently on a four-game winless run in all competitions against Liverpool, with the 0-0 draw at Anfield in October ending a run of three straight defeats.

Guardiola will hope that Sergio Aguero can continue his excellent streak against Liverpool, scoring in all six of his last home league games against the Reds.

The striker said on the City website: "Of course, I want to score as much as I can to help the team win and, if that's the way it panned out against Liverpool so far, then I hope I can keep the streak going.

"December didn't pan out the way we wanted it to and now we've got more ground to make up.

"Our focus should be on our own game. We are confident in our playing style and we believe it's the most effective to lead us to victory."

Guardiola agreed that it is all about how they can bring out the best in their game.

The Spaniard said: "Our focus is the same. We are going to try to make our game, to be there and be fighting for the Premier League for as far as possible."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline 'League is not won in January: Klopp'. Print Edition | Subscribe