Liverpool’s time at the top of the Premier League table was brief, but manager Jurgen Klopp insists they are in the position they wanted to be heading into next week’s pivotal clash with Manchester City.
A 2-0 win over Watford at Anfield in the lunchtime kick-off saw the Reds return to top spot for the first time since September to put the pressure on City, who responded with a straightforward victory at Burnley to re-establish their one-point cushion.
But, having been 14 points adrift of their title rivals in January, Klopp is more than happy with where his team are now.
“I really appreciate the situation we are in. I told the boys yesterday, if somebody would have told us in the summer that end of March, early April (we would be) in the situation we are in – in all competitions, won one trophy and a full squad available – we all would have taken it, absolutely,” he said.
“The only better situation would have been – because in the cup competitions we couldn’t be further – if we are 20 points ahead of City, but that’s not possible actually.
“It’s all fine like it is, so now enjoy the situation. We are not favourite in one of the competitions we are in, but who cares? We will give it a try.
“You can’t give an inch, but being on top? I don’t think about that, I was happy to win the game.
“To keep in the title race we have to win our football games, it will be really tricky. The next Premier League game is a big one, we can’t hide from that.”
Diogo Jota’s 20th goal of the season via a first-half header and a late Fabinho penalty sealed a 10th successive Premier League victory, the Reds becoming the only club after City to achieve the feat five times.
For a couple of hours it put them two points ahead of their rivals, a remarkable turnaround from three months ago when being involved in a title race looked fanciful.
“Because we were 14 points behind City, that means you are in trouble with qualifying for the Champions League if the others are not 15 points away as well, or 20 points,” Klopp added.
“If you cannot become champions, we have to qualify for the Champions League and that’s why there was no reason to think about anything different.
“And the rest came then. We had no influence in that, we had no chance to influence City’s games since then.
“I saw some of them. Even when they didn’t win, the performance level was incredible. So we didn’t really think about it.
“We wanted to qualify for the Champions League, we wanted to come in the cup competitions as far as possible and if possible win it, of course.
“The rest just happened while we were trying to play the best football possible.
“We didn’t play the best football possible today but it was enough. I didn’t expect we would be flying – it is unlikely after the international break it will be the best game of the season.”
Defeat for Watford left them 18th in the table and still three points from safety, with Everton immediately above them having three matches in hand.
Manager Roy Hodgson was not too down-heartened by the loss, although he was particularly unhappy with the award of the late penalty after referee Stuart Atwell was advised by VAR to view Juraj Kucka’s challenge on Jota.
“It is the only sad moment for me today,” said Hodgson.
“VAR has done a lot of very good things since it has been introduced in English football, this year better than last year, but I still find it hard to see a situation where literally no-one sees the incident.
“Not one Liverpool player complained about being fouled, but the game is stopped in the 88th minute and they are given the chance to make it 2-0 and that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
“Whether we would have got back is another matter but there was a possibility we would have got a chance.”
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