English Premiership

Liverpool seek swift relief from mounting title pressure

2019-02-08 07:14
Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp (Getty Images)

Liverpool - Ten days after blowing the chance to move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, Liverpool return to Anfield trailing Manchester City in the table when Bournemouth visit Merseyside on Saturday.

After posting a perfect record of 16 straight wins against opposition outside the top six to start the season, back-to-back 1-1 draws against Leicester and West Ham have opened the door to City and third-placed Tottenham to prolong Liverpool's 29-year wait to win the title.

Only Manchester United can boast more league titles than Liverpool's 18, but Jurgen Klopp's men must find a way of harnessing the desperation to end a drought of nearly three decades positively, rather than letting the nerves of what promises to be a thrilling run-in become a hindrance.

Tension is already apparent in the stands as much as on the pitch after the unexpected slip-ups of the past week.

"You get that feeling as well from the crowd and I think it's not really necessary at the moment," said talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk after the first of those points were dropped at home to Leicester.

"Obviously everyone wants to win so bad and that's what we want as well but sometimes you need to be very patient."

Klopp also admitted after being held at West Ham on Monday that his side need to "enjoy" the ride rather than fearing the consequences of missing out.

"It's not about pressure, it's about enjoying the situation you are in," said Klopp.

"We have 62 points, have lost one game in the whole season so far, which is very positive."

Klopp and Van Dijk have been vital to the turnaround in the club's fortunes over the past year, but they remain outsiders who have not been scarred by the near-misses over the years that have left Liverpool supporters even more fearful they could throw it away again this season.

Twice in the past decade Liverpool led at Christmas only to fall short in 2008/09 and 2013/14.

'Everyone needs to relax'

However, the fact most of the current Liverpool team have no experience of the failures of the past could ultimately be a good thing. Of the squad that lost out to City just five years ago only captain Jordan Henderson and fringe players Simon Mignolet and Daniel Sturridge remain.

"I wouldn't say nerves are showing. Did anyone say that when City dropped points against (Crystal) Palace and Leicester? I don't think they did," insisted Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson.

"It's no different for us. People talk about pressure because we've not been in this position but it's February.

"Everyone needs to relax and try and enjoy the run-in. If you're fans, or if you're from another club, you can watch many other clubs who want to be in the position we're in just now.

"Nerves aren't showing in the changing room, it's been two poor results and poor performances."

Injuries also have not helped Klopp's case of late. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum missed the trip to West Ham, but could return this weekend after training on Thursday.

And Liverpool could hardly have asked for better visitors to try and right the ship as Bournemouth have lost all of their last seven away games in the Premier League stretching back to October.

 

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Fixtures
Friday, 22 February 2019
Cardiff City v Watford, Cardiff City Stadium 21:45
West Ham United v Fulham, London Stadium 21:45
Saturday, 23 February 2019
Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur, Turf Moor 14:30
Newcastle United v Huddersfield Town, St. James' Park 17:00
AFC Bournemouth v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Vitality Stadium 17:00
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, King Power Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 24 February 2019
Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
Arsenal v Southampton, Emirates Stadium 16:05
Manchester United v Liverpool, Old Trafford 16:05
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