BSP-04 Liverpool urged to keep Premier League focus as fixture pile-up looms

132

ZCZC

BSP-04

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-CRYSTALPALACE

Liverpool urged to keep Premier League focus as fixture pile-up looms

LIVERPOOL, Nov 22, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Liverpool start a daunting run of 13
games in 41 days at Crystal Palace on Saturday that will define their season
and, quite possibly, how the Jurgen Klopp era will be remembered at Anfield.

The spectacular, and controversial, 3-1 victory over defending champions
Manchester City before the international break has left Liverpool nine points
clear of Pep Guardiola’s side.

They hold an eight-point edge over second-placed Leicester and are heavy
favourites to end a painful 30-year wait for a league title.

The visit to Selhurst Park also starts a sequence of five league games
against opponents who appear, on paper at least, not to offer too stern a
test for a team that have dropped just two league points all season — in a
1-1 draw at Manchester United.

But it is Liverpool’s schedule away from the league that has caused the
greatest degree of interest and speculation in recent weeks.

Their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar, plus their success
in the League Cup, means Klopp has been forced to play two games within 24
hours of each other, over 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometres) apart.

Liverpool visit Aston Villa on December 17 in the cup quarter-final before
they play in the Middle East on the 18th, with Klopp fielding two different
squads to cope with the congestion.

The Liverpool boss concedes that the exact nature and logistics of putting
out two teams on different continents within a matter of hours are yet to be
addressed.

But a number of pundits, led by former Anfield favourite Jamie Carragher,
have argued that Klopp should effectively ignore the four cup competitions in
which his team are involved this season — the two domestic cups, Champions
League and Club World Cup.

– Premier League fever –

The obsession among the red half of Merseyside with winning the title
increased with the near-miss under Brendan Rodgers in 2014.

And it reached near-fever pitch in May, when they lost the title to City by
one point.

Not even the considerable consolation of winning the Champions League in
June could dull the desire from Liverpool supporters to see their team lift a
trophy they last won under Kenny Dalglish in 1990.

“I know a lot of Liverpool supporters wouldn’t say this, and certainly the
club couldn’t, but nothing can get in the way of Liverpool winning the
league. Nothing,” said Carragher.

“The Aston Villa game in the Carabao (League) Cup? If Liverpool get through
they will have two semi-finals to play then and that cannot get in the way of
Liverpool winning the league.”

The difficulties facing Liverpool are summed up by a run of at least two
games per week for the remainder of 2019 including Champions League group
matches against Napoli and Salzburg before the double header at Villa and in
Qatar.

But a run of league fixtures against Palace, Brighton, struggling Everton
at home, Bournemouth and Watford suggests Klopp’s side could maintain their
dominant grip on the title race prior to visiting former manager Rodgers and
current second-placed side Leicester on December 26.

Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson are considered doubts for the trip to
Palace, with injuries they collected earlier this month.

But Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson, who both pulled out of England’s game
in Kosovo last weekend, are expected to be fit to return.

BSS/AFP/GMR/0853 hrs