Klopp cools title talk ahead of opportunity to close gap on Chelsea
While he thought it far too soon to speculate on what it might mean for Liverpool's title hopes, Jurgen Klopp argued that their 1-0 win over Manchester City had proved his side's defensive credentials.
The biggest criticism of Liverpool under Klopp has been a weakness at the back. The New Year's Eve win that kept Liverpool six points behind Chelsea was, however, Liverpool's sixth clean sheet in their last nine games. And it was achieved against what by some distance was the most demanding attack.
"I know there is some criticism of their defending but Manchester City play some of the best football in the world. You have to defend against it and we did," said Klopp.
The Liverpool manager remarked that it would be "annoying" for Chelsea to have won 13 games in a row and still see one club in touching distance of them.
Liverpool can close the gap on Antonio Conte's side to three points should they win at Sunderland today and the odds must be in their favour - starting in 1977 Sunderland have changed divisions in every year that ends in seven.
Liverpool are, however, likely to be without their Wearside-born captain, Jordan Henderson, who limped off with a heel injury against City.
Klopp said that when winning his two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund it had only been relatively late in the season that he began thinking of how they might do it.
January was far too early for that kind of debate but Klopp pointed out that Liverpool had proved a point on New Year's Eve, not by merely keeping Manchester City at bay but by going out and winning.
"You could see the pressure here not because we didn't want to lose the game but because we wanted to win it," said Klopp. "That is real pressure against a very good side."
Liverpool managers like Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish - but not Brendan Rodgers - developed a reputation for never speculating about how a season might end. As he summed up the significance of the win over Manchester City, Klopp showed himself to be more like the Liverpool managers of old.
"I have had much more difficult situations in my life than being second in a difficult league," he said.
"We are happy about our way of playing but we can have no influence over what the rest are doing until we play them. I have won a league twice and I don't think about the opportunity until really late in the season.
"You saw how ambitious the boys were against Manchester City but talking about it doesn't bring you one point." (© Independent News Service)