Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists the Premier League leaders will not crack under the pressure of being chased by Manchester City.
Monday’s 1-1 draw away to West Ham meant the Reds missed the chance to move five points clear of last season’s champions City, who can now go top on Wednesday if they win at Everton.
City last topped the table on December 15 but Liverpool drawing their past two matches has opened the door to Pep Guardiola’s side, while Tottenham have sealed three consecutive dramatic late league wins under Mauricio Pochettino to rejoin the title race.
Liverpool were without Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold for the trip to London Stadium, where a lead earned by Sadio Mane was cancelled out by Michail Antonio in the first half.
The Reds’ opener should not have counted due to an offside in the build-up and Liverpool were well below their best, but Klopp does not feel the pressure exerted by City will affect his side.
“Yes, I’m confident about that,” Klopp told a news conference when asked if he feels Liverpool will not crack. “I think since five, six, seven, eight weeks we talk about a two-horse race now and Tottenham came from behind.
“They had a very difficult situation and deal with it brilliantly, I have to say, all credit to Pochettino and his team how they did it, winning games late with a lot of injury problems as well. For me, they are 100 per cent in the race. So that’s the situation.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) February 4, 2019
“If you want to be top of the table at the end of the season then you have to deal with much tougher situations than we had today, that’s the truth. Of course you need players fit and available, that helps a bit.
“Our midfield players tonight apart from Shaq [Xherdan Shaqiri] would have been 18 and 18 years old – brilliant boys and if needed we would have played them tonight but that’s not perfect. We have to fight. It’s not about pressure, it’s about enjoying the situation you are in.
“We have 62 points, lost one game in the full season so far, which is very positive. But I see your faces already, you feel a bit sorry for us – you don’t have to, we are fine, everything is good.
“Tonight was just a tough game but if you have a day like that with the things that happened yesterday and then you get a point at West Ham, for me that’s absolutely fine.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 4, 2019
Liverpool had teenagers Rafael Camacho and Curtis Jones on the bench at West Ham due to their injury issues and Klopp confirmed Virgil van Dijk and James Milner could have also missed the game due to a bug.
“We had a difficult situation,” Klopp added. “It’s a long season. In general, we lost one game in the whole season. So the team is doing well and we have a tough situation in the moment. The injuries, I don’t know where they come from, or the illness.
“Millie was ill – or maybe still is ill – and Virg had three, four days where he was out. He lost three or four kilos. That doesn’t help as well. You have difficult situations. It’s difficult in the moment, but the boys still fight. Could we have played better, even in that situation? 100 per cent.
“That’s what we expect from ourselves. But the games are difficult and we have to accept the quality of the opponent and use their weaknesses what they have. We did that in a lot of situations pretty well, but they reacted already with the line-up…
“I don’t moan about that, it’s just a fact. It’s not an excuse, I said we could have played better tonight, 100 per cent. But it’s a situation that’s not perfect, changing three players. Millie came back but he did not train yesterday, he came to London by himself because he’s infectious.
“That’s all not perfect, of course. For me, it explains parts of the game but we don’t look for these things. How I said, the preparation for the game was far from perfect and we still got a point! That’s it.”
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