Records tumble to 'amazing' Liverpool
A dog interrupted Sheffield United's morning training session on Thursday at Stanley Park, weeing on a training cone before darting off into the distance, but it is Liverpool taking the p**s.
The numbers are frightening. Jurgen Klopp's side, 13 points clear at the Premier League summit with a game in hand, have navigated an entire year without defeat in the division. That is 37 games during which they have amassed 101 points.
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Manchester City were the team to last inflict a loss on the Merseysiders, who have gone on to win 32 of their matches since. At this stage, they are bettering the points-by-game rate (2.73 versus 2.63) of Pep Guardiola's 100-mark team.
The statistics are striking, but it is Liverpool's steel that is most remarkable.
"I love everything about them," Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder said after his side's 2-0 defeat at Anfield. "The physical and mental part of what they're doing is amazing."
So far Klopp's league leaders have found answers to every question asked of them. Their injury list has ballooned in recent weeks but so too has their resolve.
Damage Fabinho was the standout holding midfielder in Europe before suffering ankle ligament damage in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Napoli in November, but Jordan Henderson has been imperious since returning in the No 6 role.
"He's exceptional. Yes, he's outstanding," Klopp said of his captain. "I don't take that for granted for one second. If anybody who is with us doesn't see the quality of Jordan Henderson, I can't help. Is Hendo the perfect player? No. Do I know anybody who is? No."
There were question marks over Liverpool's defence, compounded by Joel Matip's knee injury and Dejan Lovren's hamstring issue.
Joe Gomez returned to partner Virgil van Dijk at centre-back and they've only let in one goal in the six league games they've started.
Liverpool have now recorded five consecutive clean sheets in the division for the first time since September 2007 when Rafael Benitez was still at the Anfield helm.
In quick succession, Klopp has also been unable to call upon Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle), Xherdan Shaqiri (muscle strain) and Naby Keita who injured his groin during the warm-up on Thursday.
But Liverpool relentlessly carry on and the manner in which they nullified the well-drilled Blades despite their pre-match setback was astounding.
"In the dressing-room there was no party or something," Klopp said when asked about the 12-month undefeated run in the top flight.
"There are two reasons. It's really an intense period of the year, so it's not like somebody wants to go out and have a few drinks.
"So they are all happy when they are in a bed and so am I, by the way.
"And because this or that player wants to do better and he knows he has to do better in this or that situation. We can do things better and we have to."
Klopp has also repeated his calls for a football-wide agreement on fixture scheduling to prevent players being overworked.
And he believes coaches and "football people" should be included in the discussion with international and national governing bodies and TV companies.
"The boys (in Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United) ran 13 kilometres - 13km to win a game. But the schedule is the schedule.
"What we do is throw football at the people. How many games were on Boxing Day? There were probably some men who watched all of them live. I don't think that's good for their relationship." (© Independent News Service)
Liverpool v Everton, live, BBC 1/eir Sport 1, 4.01pm tomorrow