Jurgen Klopp understands it is still early days in the Premier League title race but is demanding a response from Liverpool when the Reds travel to Chelsea on Sunday.
Liverpool are nine points behind leaders Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand, with second-placed Chelsea also boasting a one-point advantage over the Reds heading into the new year.
Klopp’s side disappointed in a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City on Tuesday and the former Borussia Dortmund head coach is expecting a reaction from his players as they look to make up ground on Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions.
“We were not happy with the last game, we have to show a reaction,” Klopp told reporters at Friday’s pre-match news conference.
“It’d be nice to play a better game. Even without us performing at our top level we probably should have won but well deserved for Leicester. Now we try to play much better.
“You cannot win the league properly in the winter. It’s unlikely but what City have now is a gap, they deserve it, but let’s just give it a go. Only one team can be champions. A decisive moment in April, you have to be close enough then. So many games [left] to play.”
Chelsea were also frustrated in midweek, having squandered their lead in the closing stages as Brighton and Hove Albion deservedly earned a point on the road.
Klopp’s team has not yet won in London in the Premier League this term (D2, L1) and he expects another tough test from Thomas Tuchel’s fellow title contenders.
“We have to make sure we’re really on it again and I expect a really strong Chelsea,” he added. “They have a proper football team. Leicester gave us a good example that it can be intense. We will put a proper shift in.
“The only chance to catch anyone is to win football games. It’s not so easy as we play Chelsea a proper football team and [they] might have similar issues as we have.”
Liverpool have won their last two Premier League away games against Chelsea, but Klopp insisted “you don’t win at Stamford Bridge with an average performance”.
Indeed, only one visiting team has won three Premier League games consecutively at Stamford Bridge, with Blackburn Rovers doing so between 1993-94 and 1995-96, and the challenge facing Klopp is set to increase due to COVID-19 absentees and players imminently joining up with their national teams for the Africa Cup of Nations.
“I’m not able to say who it is but it’ll be pretty clear on the teamsheet the day after tomorrow [Sunday],” Klopp told reporters on the coronavirus situation. “It’s not so cool in the moment.”
Despite a spate of coronavirus-enforced postponements in December spilling into early January, with Newcastle United’s clash with Southampton the most recent game to be called off, Klopp does not expect any cancellations due to problems within his camp.
“Postponement? Not yet but we’ve never had this outbreak,” said Klopp. “It’s more every day another one, a few staff. It feels like a lottery.
“Some COVID absences for the first Arsenal game too so we have to sort it with football solutions. Long-term plans, I know how we can play if everyone is fit, but I don’t know who can play from the 3rd [January] onwards.”