Former Liverpool player Phil Thompson has warned the Reds’ current side that they cannot keep pushing their luck with late goals and relative absence of injuries as they chase a first Premier League title.
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With the Reds now heading into a punishing schedule of 14 matches in 45 days, though, Thompson is fearful that their eight-point lead at the summit could be whittled down quickly if they keep “getting away with” good fortune.
He told Sporting Life: “Liverpool need to be focused. As a lot of the games have gone down to the wire this year, they cannot keep getting away with it, in the shape of late goals, some VAR decisions going in their favour, as well as injuries going for them. We have to keep injury-free, keep more focused in games, and start quicker, as we did against City.”
He added: “It is that little bit of luck, at times, the little bit of VAR going in your favour, that could equally go against you. Red cards will be massive too – you only need a red card and then your backs are against the wall, especially against the big boys. But the biggest one of all is injures. It has decimated City’s defence, and if they had everybody fit, they could have been a lot closer to Liverpool.”
Thompson is right to point out the Reds’ reliance on late goals and relative good luck with injuries in comparison with Manchester City.
Liverpool needed goals in the final 15 minutes to ensure victory in league games against Leicester, Tottenham and Aston Villa this season, as well as an 85th-minute equaliser to rescue a point against Manchester United.
Without those late goals, they would have drawn against Leicester and Spurs and lost the other two games, an eight-point swing which would currently have them in second as the Foxes would have had one point more in that instance and therefore be above the Reds, as per premierleague.com.
Even with the score at full-time counting and not the one at the 75-minute mark, it doesn’t seem likely that Klopp will want to keep banking on late salvage operations for the whole season.
Also, even though Liverpool lost first-choice goalkeeper Alisson to injury for two months earlier in the campaign, Adrian proved a capable deputy, with the Reds winning every league game in which he played.
Contrast that with Manchester City, who have lost Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte for several months with a cruciate ligament rupture and serious knee injury respectively, as well as missing John Stones for a month in the autumn and seeing first-choice goalkeeper Ederson miss the defeat at Anfield due to injury.
The Reds’ comparative luck on the injury front already seems to be changing, with Sky Sports reporting that Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson are set to miss Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace due to ankle problems.
The upcoming glut of games could also test the depth of Liverpool’s squad to its extremes, with at least two games a week for the remainder of 2019 and the first week of January (as per talkSPORT).
Thompson is right to be cautious about the Reds’ title prospects, given the breaks that have gone their way and the surrendering of a seven-point lead at a later stage of last season.
Liverpool fans, are Thompson’s concerns about the Reds’ title challenge justified? Comment below with your views!
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