Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s side ‘playing under stress’ and need to be ‘flawless’ to win Premier League

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp acknowledges their supporters after their Europa League quarter-final second leg against Atalanta
Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, with the German saying he is “running out of energy”

Two weeks is a long time in football.

Heading into the weekend before their Premier League trip to Manchester United, Liverpool were two points clear at the top.

A Europa League quarter-final against Atalanta and a potential semi-final against Marseille or Benfica seemed kind on paper.

It meant a treble was on for Liverpool to mark Jurgen Klopp’s last season on Merseyside.

Fast forward 12 days, they are third in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Manchester City, after a draw at Old Trafford and a defeat by Crystal Palace, and out of Europe after a 3-1 aggregate defeat by Italian side Atalanta.

Liverpool have secured the Carabao Cup this season, but now can only add a second Premier League title for Klopp before the German waves goodbye on 19 May.

“It is weighing on them – I see a team that is playing under stress,” said former Liverpool midfielder Don Hutchison on TNT Sports.

“They are a team under pressure – they are trying to finish off the season because of Jurgen Klopp’s farewell.”

Between Klopp announcing his intended departure on 26 January and the recent slump, Liverpool won the Carabao Cup and had claimed 22 points from an available 27 in the Premier League, but had been knocked out of the FA Cup.

Former Reds striker Peter Crouch said: “It has been a difficult week for them. They’ll take the positives of winning away from home at a difficult place but it is slightly concerning at the moment.”

‘If you keep missing golden opportunities, you’ll pay for it’

Mohamed Salah’s seventh-minute penalty gave them hope of overturning a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Atalanta in Italy, but they failed to capitalise and build any momentum.

They had just two shots in the second half, and have now failed to score from open play for 360 minutes in all competitions.

“I don’t think they had answers to Atalanta’s defensive plans,” said Crouch. “I don’t think they had enough belief or enough about them creatively. It was disappointing.”

Klopp’s side had 15 shots in the first half of their draw at Manchester United and registered 26 in their defeat by Palace at the weekend, and were guilty of spurning good chances in both games.

Asked if their current dry spell is concerning, former Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister said: “Absolutely, but they are creating chances. If you keep missing golden opportunities, you will pay for it and that is what has happened recently.”

‘We need everyone for the last push’

Liverpool travel to Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday before trips to Everton and West Ham in the next nine days.

The first two of those matches are before Manchester City play again in the Premier League, so Liverpool may have opened up a four-point gap to build some pressure.

“We have to focus on the league and that is exactly what we will do from now,” Klopp told TNT Sports. “We will throw ourselves into that completely.”

Captain Virgil van Dijk added: “We have been through difficult moments all together, so showing maturity and togetherness is the key to this.

“We need everyone now for the last push in the league. Hopefully our fans will be there because we need them now more than ever because anything is still possible.”

According to Opta, Liverpool have a 12% chance of winning the Premier League, while Gracenote’s Euro Club Indexexternal-link ranks their chances at 10%.

“They’ve effectively got six cup finals,” said McAllister.

“There’s no time to mope around. The senior players have got to get the whole squad together and go ‘we’ve got six games to go here’.”

Hutchison added: “They’ve got to be flawless. City are in the driving seat and look pretty much flawless themselves and you know they can win every game.

“The game at Fulham at the weekend isn’t a game that you can be confident they [Liverpool] can win with the way they are playing at the moment and missing chances.”

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