Premier League English

Jurgen Klopp optimistic about pre-season Liverpool expectations and issues Man City title warning

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes his side are surpassing his expectations in the Premier League this season although he understands the disappointment of supporters after the recent dip in the title race.

The Reds were two points ahead at the start of the month but slid over the weekend into third place, two points adrift of leaders Manchester City and behind Arsenal on goal difference.They have endured a difficult April having squandered chances during a 2-2 draw at Manchester United, besides having their unbeaten home league record terminated by Crystal Palace and were then tossed out of the Europa League at the quarter-final stage by Atalanta.

Liverpool had not been considered genuine title contenders at the start of the campaign, having finished fifth last term and having to subsequently undergo an extensive midfield rebuild following the departures of skipper Jordan Henderson, vice-captain James Milner, Fabinho and both Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, the Reds, who won the League Cup in February, now need only eight points from their remaining six games to secure a top-four berth and a return to the Champions League.

When the question was posed if it was a monumental achievement for Liverpool to be so close to the top at this stage of the season, Klopp said: “It is. Who would have thought that?

“I wouldn’t have been angry at the start of the season if somebody had asked ‘would it be a big success if you could qualify for the Champions League? I wouldn’t have taken it immediately and (instead) said ‘come on, let’s give the season a chance, at least’.

“But it’s absolutely positive where we are, 100%. But now you go out in the streets and you go up to the people and ask them, would they have said immediately ‘ah, it’s a great season, who cares about the Crystal Palace game, who cares about United, who cares about Atalanta?’. It’s not like that.

“We are influenced by things that happen recently. But it’s the job to get this positive view again, and it’s really not a problem. It has to start with me and I am really in a good mood. I will try my absolute best to give that to the boys as well and I’m sure they are ready for that.

“We all understand in the right way that the next big job is in front of us.”

Klopp reiterated the message that his players should only concentrate on their own remaining games.

“Maybe it’s the right time that we became the hunter again, I don’t know!” laughed Klopp, speaking to Sky Sports. “It’s absolutely fine, we all know it is always like that. We play our game (against Palace last Sunday), then we have one eye on the Arsenal game and they lose that game. That softens the situation slightly if you want, but then everybody will tell you City can win the rest of their games. Of course, they can.

“But our situation is not what City are doing, it’s only what we are doing. Can we win football games, can we be us again? That’s for the next six games. And if we can do that then we have a good chance to make something really special, and if not then somebody else deserves to be champion.”