Is Liverpool still in the Premier League title race?
There is probably fear amongst the loyal Liverpool support right now that the defence of their title is done and dusted. A 7-0 trashing over Crystal Palace in mid-December extended Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table to five points, with their nearest contenders in the title race namely their cross-city rivals Everton.
However, no one could have predicted what has followed for Jürgen Klopp’s side. The Reds went five games without a win, drawing against West Brom, Newcastle and Manchester United, whilst losing to Southampton and Burnley. The latter defeat was a real blow for Liverpool. It ended their 68-game Premier League unbeaten streak at home, which spanned all the way back to 2017.
The Liverpool team as a whole looked lacklustre during that period. They went six hours of Premier League football without even scoring a goal – incredible given the quality within their ranks, especially in attack with Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané usually so prominent, and just a few games prior they were all getting in on the act at Selhurst Park.
With just three points from a possible 15, the Reds quickly fell off the pace. Following the defeat to Burnley, Liverpool had dropped down to fourth in the table and were some six points behind Manchester United at the top.
Understandably, there was concern amongst pundits and supporters alike. Former Liverpool defender turned Sky Sports analyst Jamie Carragher even claimed that he was afraid the Reds might not even finish in the top four.
“I cannot remember a time with so many players out of form at the same time,” said the retired defender. “If the next run of games do not go well then I have no doubt they will be well out of the title race by the middle of February, the end of February.
“If that happens then Liverpool will be fighting for their lives to be in the Champions League next season.”
However, for the Reds the tide seemed to have turned. They got back into winning ways with an empathic 3-1 victory over Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and they followed that up with another 3-1 win in the capital, this time over in-form West Ham United.
Those victories briefly reinstated Liverpool’s status in the Premier League winner odds, but a shock 1-0 defeat to Brighton at Anfield and a 4-1 thrashing against Manchester City, which made it three-successive defeats at home for the Reds, have since lengthened those odds once more.
By no means is it going to be an easy task to get Pep Guardiola and Manchester City checking their wing mirrors in despair. The league leaders are now a cool 10 points ahead of Klopp’s side in the table, and they boast a game in hand over the Anfield outfit as well.
That aside, they are arguably the in-form team at the moment. After successive draws against Man United and West Brom, Guardiola’s men have put together a run of 10 league victories on the trot, and when City start to find that kind of form, they are incredibly difficult to stop.
The game against the runaway leaders at Anfield last Sunday was the chance to pull Liverpool back into the title race and a game that the Reds needed to take by the scruff of the neck. However, defeat was a crucial blow and City went 10 points clear without even having played their game in hand yet.
Of course, victory for Klopp would have cut the gap to four, and Guardiola would maybe have felt the pressure a little more in that case with fixtures against Arsenal (A) and Spurs (H) also rammed into this month.
This month definitely has the potential to be definitive in the title race. As already mentioned, City face some tough encounters throughout February, but should they come out unscathed then you’d fancy them to run away with the title. However, the writing is on the wall for Liverpool. Their title defence is well and truly over!