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Jamie Carragher: 'Talk that Liverpool are chokers is nonsense'

Anfield air of expectation is not the reason why club has come up short in past title bids

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Steven Gerrard shows his dismay after his infamous slip against Chelsea in 2014

Steven Gerrard shows his dismay after his infamous slip against Chelsea in 2014

Steven Gerrard shows his dismay after his infamous slip against Chelsea in 2014

When Jurgen Klopp introduced himself at Anfield with a vow to 'turn doubters into believers', it was not entirely clear what he wanted Liverpool supporters to believe in.

That he could build a team capable of winning the Premier League? I am not sure even the most dedicated fan expected that within three years, particularly given the financial resources of Manchester City and United.

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Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

At that time, the belief was Liverpool would return to the Champions League, revive an exciting brand of football and win some cup competitions. Now? Expectations are soaring to such an extent Liverpool head to Manchester City with only three remaining obstacles to becoming Premier League champions in 2019.

The first two are obvious and considerable - Manchester City and Spurs.

Pep Guardiola's side can reassert themselves with victory tonight. Ignore Guardiola's pre-match comments about it being a 'must-win' for City. It isn't. A seven-point game is nothing, easily surmountable just beyond the halfway stage.

Should they lose, City may shift their priority to winning the Champions League, but they will not give up. That is not to understate the importance of the game. This is Liverpool's biggest league fixture since April 2014 and if they win it will be their title to lose.

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Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers

Much can still go wrong, such as injuries and suspensions at key times. Questions have also been raised as to how well Liverpool can handle the pressure of trying to end a 29-year wait to become champions. This brings us to what some see as Liverpool's third barrier to achieving that ambition. The club itself. Will they thrive or succumb under the weight of expectation? I have been hearing an unofficial history of Liverpool title challenges over the last few weeks.

It is the story of the seasons in 2002, 2009 and 2014 where having played their way into a strong position, the emotional intensity, pressure and general nervousness got the better of the club. The players, staff and fans ended up wanting it too much, generating hysterical frenzy on match days. Eventually it went wrong.

Brendan Rodgers' team fell short, captain Steven Gerrard's on-field rally cry after victory over Man City preceding defeat to Chelsea. In 2009, Rafa Benitez delivered the famous 'facts' speech as Liverpool went head-to-head with Manchester United.

"He's cracking up," sang rival fans as United won the title. Seven years earlier Gerard Houllier closed the gap on Arsenal, reached the quarter-final of the Champions League and told the world Liverpool were 'ten games from greatness'. They lost to Bayer Leverkusen in Europe and finished seven points behind Arsene Wenger's side.

All these examples provide easy ammunition against the club, as if Liverpool becomes too roused by the possibilities when the moment of truth arrives. Klopp, it has been argued, must learn from this to avoid a repeat.

It's a nice tale, but as someone who participated in two of those title bids there is only one problem with it. It is complete nonsense.

Let's look at those seasons again and separate the myth and reality. Houllier's declarations in 2002 came in the middle of an extraordinary run where from January we won 13 of 15 Premier League games to complete the season. We drew the Merseyside derby and our only defeat was away to Spurs. Our problem wasn't over-excitement or pressure, but chasing one of the best Arsenal teams ever that finished seven points above us.

In 2009, Benitez's end-of-season run was amazing. We won ten of our final 11 games, a 4-4 draw with Arsenal the only setback. Manchester United had Cristiano Ronaldo and we could not catch them. Their quality and experience saw them win by four points.

Rodgers' side trailed City by five points at the halfway stage of the 2014 title race. His side won 12 of its last 14 League games, the Chelsea defeat the only loss. The perception lingers they froze at the crucial moment, when in fact they excelled to go so close with Luis Suarez's inspired performances.

Sustained

That's 27 home games over the second half of those three seasons. One defeat. Those title challenges were not undermined by Anfield emotion. They were inspired and sustained by them.

Since Liverpool went top there has been a different mood on Merseyside and the team is playing even better.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino wishes he could count on Wembley to create the same vibe: "Every game Liverpool play at Anfield is a party and that sometimes makes the difference."

He is right. When I recall those home games where the atmosphere was at its peak - which tended to be in Europe - I struggle to recall when we lost, or failed to perform to our maximum. It helped us overcome superior opposition - most famously throughout our Champions League run in 2005. The only difference it makes is positive. It drove me on as part of those teams in 2002 and 2009, when our biggest problem was the brilliance of those we were trying to catch.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Jurgen Klopp claims rivals Manchester City are the best football team in the world, before his team face them in the Premier League title race clash.
 

Telegraph.co.uk