Liverpool’s memorable victory over Man City will boost morale – but cannot be regarded as a high point of the season.
The fallout regarding matters away from the field may be dominating headlines following the latest fractious, frantic meeting between Liverpool and Manchester City.
But, as ever in fixtures between the Premier League heavyweights, the reverberations from matters on the pitch in Sunday’s tumultuous encounter will be felt as much as the growing ill feeling between certain sections of the two institutions.
Not, as Jurgen Klopp readily admitted before the game, concerning the scrap for the title. Liverpool are already too far adrift to be involved in that conversation this season.
However, the Reds would be foolish not to harness the momentum of such a seismic victory – particularly given the underwhelming Premier League campaign that preceded it – before the campaign grinds to a temporary halt due to the World Cup.
While there are only 26 days until Liverpool’s season is put on pause for six weeks, the fixtures in the meantime will go some way towards shaping just what Klopp’s side could realistically be playing for in the New Year.
They are well placed in their Champions League group, with a point from their final two games at Ajax next week and at home to Napoli six days later sufficient to secure qualification to the knockout stages for the sixth successive year. And they will be confident of securing a place in the last 16 of the League Cup with Derby County due at Anfield for a third round tie on November 9.
The greater challenge, though, will be aiming to close the gap on the top four, Klopp’s side currently six points adrift of Chelsea and a further four from Tottenham Hotspur and City, with leaders Arsenal a whopping 14 points ahead, albeit with most having played a game more.
Even after the deserved win over the champions, Liverpool have taken only 13 points from their opening nine Premier League games, their worst start to a season since Brendan Rodgers’ uncertain first steps in charge in 2012/13.
It must be said the Reds’ fixture list – at least on the road – has not been kind in the opening months, travelling only to top-four rivals, promoted sides or neighbours Everton. Indeed, their one postponed away game was at Chelsea.
That, then, is what makes the next five Premier League games so pivotal. Having registered, for differing reasons and in differing manner, such important victories over Rangers and Manchester City, Liverpool now have the perfect opportunity to build momentum. They cannot be regarded as a high point come the end of the campaign.
Wednesday’s visit of improving West Ham United offers an awkward challenge, so too the trip to struggling Nottingham Forest in Saturday’s early kick-off, a game likely to possess an extra edge given the FA Cup quarter-final meeting between the teams last season.
Then comes a Saturday night showdown against Leeds United at Anfield, with the most difficult fixture, the trip to Tottenham Hotspur, the following weekend before finishing with a home game against Southampton. Three of those five opponents currently occupy the bottom six, two in the bottom three.
Taking maximum points from the three home games – Liverpool still haven’t lost a Premier League match at Anfield in front of paying supporters since April 2017 – is an imperative. And in truth, a return of 12 or 13 points from the next 15 would put Klopp’s side in a much stronger position going into the break.
While Tottenham is the clear major test, Liverpool will take heart from the fact their win over City was the first time they had beaten one of their accepted chief top-four rivals of recent years – Spurs and Chelsea the others – in a Premier League match since January 2021.
Sunday was a memorable occasion. But it will count for nothing unless the Reds use it as a springboard to help bounce up the table before the Boxing Day resumption.