Jürgen Klopp believes increasing the quality and consistency of Liverpool’s performances will prove decisive in determining where they finish at the conclusion of the Barclays Premier League campaign.
The Reds travel to table-toppers Leicester City on Tuesday night aiming to inflict only their third defeat of the season so far ahead of top-flight clashes with Sunderland at home and Aston Villa in the Midlands.
Klopp feels the trio of fixtures could prove key – but not decisive – in where his team ultimately finish in the table as they aim to make up an eight-point gap on the top four.
The manager told his pre-match press conference at Melwood: “I don’t think we should think too much about it [finishing in the top four].
“We have important games in the Premier League – we have only important games, especially now with an away game at Leicester, Sunderland and then Aston Villa. I think these three games [could] give a little sign of where we can go in this season. But even after these games, it’s not over.
“We’ve shown a row of more-than-okay performances with a little bit more consistency, even when we had a lot of changes, and that’s what we have to now bring onto the pitch all the time so we can really fight for the right results.
“We all know about the quality, especially our next opponents Leicester and their clear idea of their game, their clear style. It’s difficult to play against, as most of the teams in the Premier League have felt when they’ve met them.
“We are prepared, of course, because we know about it, so we know where we have to defend, which balls we have to defend, you cannot press Kasper Schmeichel, so he will have a few free balls and then we have to fight for the second one, that’s for sure, and use the space.
“Top four should always be a target, and so it is a target, but at the end I can’t say I think we’ll get there or I think we won’t get there – only our performances will have influence on this situation. That’s what we should be concentrated on.”
The fixture with Leicester kicks off another hectic month for Liverpool, which includes the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City, an FA Cup replay with West Ham United and the resumption of the Europa League and a two-legged tie with Augsburg.
The trip to the King Power Stadium is first up, however, and Klopp is under no illusions as to the challenge that will face his team from the league leaders.
“It is a perfectly tuned team, to be honest,” he said. “We could speak about everybody in this team, but of course it’s the football world is that we all talk about Mahrez and Vardy.
“If you want to talk about them, you have to speak about Kante, Drinkwater, Christian Fuchs with his set plays and throw ins, the defenders and Kasper Schmeichel.
“They really do well, they stay in the race, they are concentrated and focused. They’ve had a few – but not too many – downs, but they always fought back and that’s really, really impressive. I can easily praise their ways because it’s obviously great what they are doing and I did it before the last game [on Boxing Day], but now we play against them and we’re not the first supporters’ club of Leicester!
“We go there and want to challenge them and to make our situation better, and for this we need the points. We did it at home. They’ve had a few days off and we’ve had three games, and that’s a big difference. We could rest a lot of players on Saturday, so we will be prepared for this game, but it’ll be an intensive game for sure.
“It’s not only these long balls, it is counter-attacking football at its best; it’s really, really good and they have a clear plan. The good thing with a clear plan is you know about it, so they won’t change a lot – but all the other teams knew about it too and they couldn’t avoid their strengths for 95 minutes. We will try everything and hopefully it will work.”