Jurgen Klopp was on his way out on Saturday evening when his driver became animated about the score updates from the Etihad Stadium. “He was very excited and said it was 2-2 and then 3-2 and I thought [Manchester] City won,” he said. His reaction to discovering Tottenham had instead got the decider, he said, was: “Oh.”
Others may have had a more dramatic response, but Klopp is adopting an understated approach to the prospect of catching City. “If it was 12 points, 15 points or whatever, it would be a completely different situation. But for us, nothing changed really, we have to win all our games,” he said.
Win the first of them, against Leeds on Wednesday, and the gap at the Premier League summit, which stretched to 13 points when City beat Chelsea last month, is down to three.
“I cannot count points on our account before we played the game,” Klopp responded. The closest he came to accepting that the situation has altered was when he said: “They are not completely out of reach any more. But we have so many games to play and, yes, if we could win them all it is a title race and if not, it is probably not a title race.”
He seemed to be considering the evidence from the run-in in 2019 when City triumphed in their final 14 games. Liverpool won their last nine, ended with 97 points and were still one behind Pep Guardiola’s team. “Historically it happens more often than not that they win pretty much all theirs,” Klopp said. “I didn’t think a second about the title race.”
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He has concentrated more of his attention on Leeds. Their first game back in the Premier League in 2020 was a 4-3 defeat at Anfield and Klopp described them as “high scorers in both directions.”
“Leeds is pretty much leading in three of the decisive running stats. If you are not really in the game, they will eat you,” Klopp warned. “You saw all the faces of Leeds United on Sunday, very brave and very exciting offensively and they go with everything they have. Defensively you can cause them problems but it is difficult as well because of the man-marking all over the pitch.”
Klopp has ruled out resting players ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea. “One thing I learned over the years is it doesn’t work for me to have two or three games in mind,” he said.
“If you rest someone for 60 minutes and then bring him on and he gets a knock in the 65th, what is the point?” He will be without the injured pair of Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, who are yet to return to training, and is unsure if either will be fit to play at Wembley.
Leeds have added the concussed Robin Koch to an injury list that already includes Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper. It means Marcelo Bielsa is without two of his premier centre-backs as well as his first-choice defensive midfielder.
They brought up an unwanted half-century by becoming only the second team to let in 50 league goals this season on Sunday. As they prepare to face the top scorers, Bielsa blamed his own defensive system. “You have to analyse why,” he said. “What are the real reasons and how to avoid this from happening? That’s my function and when you have played these games and [conceded] these goals, the conclusions are clear.”