'Strange things happen' - Jason McAteer recounts painful memories as he issues a title warning for Liverpool
Jason McAteer believes Liverpool will beat Tottenham in Sunday's Premier League clash at Anfield, but he has warned that their title challenge could flounder in unexpected circumstances.
Speaking to Independent.ie, the former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland midfielder recounted painful personal memories as he suggested Jurgen Klopp's side could be undone in games against the Premier League's lesser sides.
"You look at this game against Tottenham and Sunday and think it could be one that trips Liverpool up, but don't see it like that," said McAteer, who will be part of the Liverpool Legends team playing a Republic of Ireland XI in a match to raise funds for stricken Liverpool fan Sean Cx in Dublin on April 12th.
"Strange things happen when a team are challenging for a big prize and especially when you are in Liverpool's position, trying to end a long wait for a title.
"I say this from personal experience because the Liverpool team I was a part of was well clear at the top of the table heading into the New Year in the 1996/97 season. It was a very similar position to Jurgen Klopp's team this season, and we didn't lose the title in matches against our rivals at the top. We slipped up against Coventry and Wimbledon, which shows you what can happen when you least expect it.
"Everyone is fighting for their lives now in this final seven or eight games of the season, whether it is battling for a top four finish or trying to stave off relegation and it means everyone will be motivated to a new level in these final few weeks.
"Most of the teams Liverpool will play still have their own agenda, so even if you look at the Tottenham game and say that will be one of their toughest, every match will be difficult between now and the final game on May 12th.
"The days of a team being safe in April and coasting through the final few weeks of the season are long gone because the difference between finishing seventh and 11th is massive financially now and club chairmen, managers and players appreciate what every point is worth now.
"If Liverpool can block out everything else that is going on around them, block out the nerves and focus on what they do best, I think they will be alright in these final seven games, but that is easier said than done when the pressure is applied."
McAteer believes Manchester City will slip up at some point as they prepare for Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League matches in a frantic April fixture list, but he insists Liverpool cannot allow their gaze to drift towards Pep Guardiola's champions.
"The Liverpool players cannot look at this month in front of us and hope that City will drop points because all they can do is win their own games and hope that will be enough," he adds.
"The law of averages suggest City will slip up somewhere in April, but we don't know whether that will be in the FA Cup, the Champions League or the Premier League. It might be that they go through the month and win every game, but Liverpool can't worry about that.
"Beat Tottenham on Sunday and then think about the next match. If it falls into place and City do drop a few points in April, then you can start to think about what it all means."