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Monday 23 October 2017

United a tie Klopp can't afford to lose

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the sideline during the Premier League game against Newcastle on Sunday. Photo: REUTERS
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the sideline during the Premier League game against Newcastle on Sunday. Photo: REUTERS

Liverpool will welcome Manchester United to Anfield for their next Premier League fixture and we are already at the point where that has to be viewed as a must-win game for Jurgen Klopp's side.

That may sound a little dramatic with just seven games of the season played, but United and their neighbours Manchester City are looking very strong at the top of the table and I just don't see them dropping too many points in the coming months.

You look at the way they have brushed aside the opposition thrown in front of them over the first few weeks of this season and it gives the impression that we are in for a two-horse race for the title.

City were very impressive in the way they played and beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and United have taken advantage of a very friendly fixture list to get their season off to a flier.

Ready to push

I'm not Jose Mourinho's biggest fan for a variety of reasons, but he gets his teams winning if you give him time and with Romelu Lukaku scoring goals for fun and his defence looking like the best in the Premier League, United are ready to push for the title for the first time since Alex Ferguson's retirement as their manager.

It may still be too early to write off teams like Chelsea and Tottenham, but if United were to win at Anfield and open up a ten-point lead over Klopp's side, the game would already be up for Liverpool.

That would be very hard to take for a team that continues to make the same mistakes week-after-week, with Sunday's 1-1 draw at Newcastle the latest example of the frustrating story we watch every time they take to the field now.

We all knew Rafa Benitez would set out to make it difficult for Liverpool, with his Newcastle team happy to get out of that game with a draw.

Well, they got what they wanted, but only because Liverpool gifted them a goal that you would not be happy with if your 12-year-old kid was playing as a central defender on a Sunday morning in a Dublin park.

Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip needed to step up and catch Newcastle forward Joselu off-side when they had a two against one near the half way line, or they could have dropped back to cover their opponent.

Daniel Sturridge looks disconsolate during Sunday’s game at St James’ Park. Photo: REUTERS
Daniel Sturridge looks disconsolate during Sunday’s game at St James’ Park. Photo: REUTERS

That neither of them took any action to avert the danger and invited Jonjo Shelvey to slot a ball between them that paved the way for the Newcastle goal was unforgivable, but it's nothing we haven't seen before.

These Liverpool defenders switch off at crucial moments and they so nearly lost the game in the last minute when they made a mess of trying to defend a set-piece once again.

Why can't these problem be solved by Klopp and his players? It is a question the manager should be answering and not me, but he doesn't seem to have that answer.

Liverpool have conceded 12 goals in their first seven games of the season, which is double what you would expect from a team with serious ambitions to challenge for the Premier League title.

Only West Ham and Crystal Palace have conceded more goals and one of those clubs have already sacked their manager, with the Hammers less than convinced they have the right man at the helm in Slaven Bilic.

Meanwhile, United and City have conceded just two goals in their opening fixtures and that is why they are running away at the top of the table and Liverpool are scratching their heads wondering what they are doing wrong.

The chances being created by Klopp's team should have ensured they won the game at Newcastle on Sunday.

But Daniel Sturridge looks off the pace and you cannot rely on magic from Philippe Coutinho or Sadio Mane every week to cover up the holes in the defence.

Teams that are as defensively flaky as Liverpool simply don't win big trophies and unless Klopp finds a way to solve the problem, his team will finish this season winning nothing.

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