Liverpool have experienced a turbulent few weeks as of late, with the club failing to take a single point from any of their last three Premier League outings. Jurgen Klopp has been the subject of much of his side’s criticism as a result, especially after conceding their top-flight title defence with 14 games left to play after Saturday’s defeat at Leicester City, and has been backed by some to face a rare Merseyside derby defeat in Saturday’s clash with noisy neighbours Everton.
An emotional Klopp perfectly embodied the atmosphere surrounding Liverpool following the 3-1 loss at the King Power Stadium three days ago, meekly revealing his utter shock at the scale of the club’s rapid decline.
“Yes,” he simply replied when asked if successive Premier League triumphs would prove to be a step too far. “I can’t believe it, but yes.”
It quickly became apparent that a return to form was needed as soon as possible, in order to restore some pride ahead of another, hopefully more successful, shot at English football’s top honour next season.
In spite of their Premier League struggles, Liverpool remain in the hunt for a second Champions League triumph in three seasons, and were faced with the perfect opportunity to right their wrongs by making a statement against RB Leipzig on Tuesday evening.
The challenge posed by the Bundesliga heavyweights, who knocked Manchester United out of the competition earlier in the campaign, could quite easily have overpowered the Reds if Klopp had allowed his players to wallow in their recent slump.
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However, the German boss managed to instill a sense of much-needed confidence into his Liverpool side, who successfully managed to redeem themselves from the first whistle at Budapest’s Puskas Arena.
Contrary to reports, the eleven that took to the pitch did not look short of confidence by any stretch, pressing opposition ball-carriers aggressively and chasing down as a team to restrict Leipzig’s influence in a way that has become typical of the Reds under Klopp’s leadership.
Their ability to mount rapid counter attacks, which has been a huge part of the club’s success over the last few years, was also clearly on show.
The attitude from Liverpool’s back four and midfield trio was refreshingly positive throughout the opening 45 minutes, with Thiago, Curtis Jones and Georginio Wijnaldum continously looking to move the ball forwards and exploit passing lanes.
Meanwhile, Klopp’s imperious front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah showed glimpses of their brilliant best.
The Egyptian winger got his reward shortly after the interval, capitalising on a loose ball to burst through on goal and wrong-foot the helpless Peter Gulaci in between the sticks, showing that he is still more than capable of producing moments of match-winning magic to help Liverpool out of their recent rut.
Mane then added a second just five minutes later, with his side’s attacking prowess sure to fill Klopp with hope ahead of the upcoming Merseyside derby.
January signing Ozan Kabak, who was panned for his crucial mix-up with Alisson at Leicester, also impressed with a calm and considered performance at the back alongside skipper Jordan Henderson.
The 24-year-old was handed a huge chance to stake his claim for a starting spot in Saturday’s clash with Everton, and could well keep his place if Fabinho fails to recover in time, making more first-half tackles than any other player on the pitch.
With Liverpool taking all three points in Hungary on Tuesday night, Klopp will undoubtedly be encouraged by the overall performance, which marked a significant departure from their lacklustre efforts against Pep Guardiola’s City and Leicester earlier this month.
Granted, the Premier League title is likely out of Liverpool’s reach, but there are still plenty of points to be won between now and the end of the campaign as Liverpool aim to seal a top-four finish, with local bragging rights the next target for Klopp and his players.
Everton could be there for the taking if Liverpool can carry their newfound winning momentum into Saturday’s encounter, with Carlo Ancelotti set to be without star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin through injury.
Despite the way things have been portrayed at Anfield in recent weeks, all hope is not lost, and Tuesday’s performance serves as a gentle reminder that the Reds are still a world-class side.
Liverpool will go into the weekend’s Merseyside derby as favourites to claim the spoils once again, and Klopp will be hopeful that the club can begin to at least reduce City’s impressive lead at the top of the Premier League table with a welcome victory.