Liverpool: Reds must now be considered Manchester City's long term threat

Klopp hoping to downsize Manchester City dominance
Klopp hoping to downsize Manchester City dominance

Martin Laurence discusses Liverpool's ability to rise to the big occasion and why they must now be considered the favourites to finish second in the Premier League, and make real strides in Europe too...

"The ferocity with which the attack pressed City’s back four, harrying them into a frenzied period of ineptitude, was irrepressible."

It speaks volumes of this Liverpool side, and in fact any Reds XI since Jurgen Klopp's appointment, that despite Manchester City's utter dominance in the Premier League this season, their victory this weekend didn't really come as a surprise.

The Reds were tipped to cause Pep Guardiola's men problems and that was certainly the case in a game that summed up their performances for some time. The ferocity with which the attack pressed City's back four, harrying them into a frenzied period of ineptitude, was irrepressible.

For 10 or 15 second half minutes the visitors were unrecognisable from their free-flowing best, with the hosts smelling blood having taken a 2-1 lead and going in for the kill. However, they so nearly offered the league leaders a lifeline with the sort of hapless defending that has held this side back from a title challenge.

Liverpool's defensive woes still quell hopes of silverware

Make no mistake, Liverpool's attack has what it takes to fire the club to silverware, but 'defending' akin to Dejan Lovren's for the Citizens' third goal has seen them come undone time and again against side's that don't leave their defence as exposed as Guardiola's side did on Sunday.

The Merseysiders have of course invested heavily in Virgil van Dijk to remedy that, but their goalkeeping issues were exposed once again. Loris Karius could have done better with Leroy Sane's first half equaliser, and the protection to that suspect back five is still questionable.

As it stands Liverpool only know one way of playing, but the form of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is such that a runner-up finish - they are available to back at 2.89/5 in the Top 2 Finish market - is a real possibility. As things stand, before rivals Manchester United's match with Stoke on Monday night, they are third on goal difference behind the Red Devils and ahead of Chelsea, yet there is no question which of the three is in the best form right now.

Liverpool's win at the weekend was their fourth in succession in the league and their 14th without defeat, both of which are the longest streaks of their kind at present. With that in mind the fact that they are behind both United and Chelsea to finish in the top two makes little sense, and offers some value.

After all, to reference an increasingly popular and irritating chant, they may have sold Philippe Coutinho but they have Salah, whose impact has been remarkable. His 18 league goal added to a collection of memorable strikes but it's his work rate from the front and suitability to Klopp's approach that has made him a huge success, and a player to be feared by even the strongest of defences, of which City's is still not one.

Could Liverpool go all the way in Europe?

Given their favourable draw against Porto in the Champions League then, there's a growing sense that while Premier League glory will have to be put on hold, the Reds have a real shot at going deep into the knockout phase among Europe's elite. Their weekend victims remain the favourites for the crown this season 4.707/2, but of the 16 teams remaining Liverpool 16.015/1 are sixth in terms of the shortest odds on the Exchange to win outright, with half odds offered on an each-way appearance in the final when betting on the Sportsbook.

The fact that Klopp's men are perfectly capable of blitzing even the best of teams in short periods in games may well play into their favour. They'll know, after all, that even a two-goal first leg deficit, for example, isn't an unsalvageable situation. The flip side is that their defence is equally liable to be the one blitzed, but you can be sure that they will offer great entertainment value should they reach the latter stages and that is, after all, what we all want from the Champions League.

For the neutral they are a joy to watch at times. For their fans they can be a nightmare (see the dying minutes at Anfield on Sunday). What's clear, and has been for some time given their record against the remaining sides from the 'big six' in England, is that this Liverpool team can put the frighteners up any side on their day.

With the likes of Adam Lallana returning to full fitness and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain displaying the sort of form that has seen his premature critics go awfully quiet, the loss of Coutinho may not be the disaster that many predicted. They may yet have more a more considered balance. Factor in Van Dijk's arrival and the impending acquisition of Naby Keita - be it in the summer or this month, which seems unlikely - and the Merseyside giants have what it takes to be Manchester City's main challengers. If they aren't already, that is...

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