Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects his players to have their full focus on struggling Fulham despite a top-of-the-table encounter against Tottenham on the horizon.
The Reds face a Cottagers team who have taken just seven points from 11 matches this season with just two victories in their last 10 games in all competitions.
Wednesday’s visit to Anfield of Jose Mourinho’s high-flying Tottenham is a much more enticing prospect but Klopp insists they will continue to take their title defence one match at a time.
“I hope none of our players will think about Tottenham when we are in Fulham, to be honest,” he said.
“The situation is like it is at the top of the table, everywhere in the table pretty much, there is not a lot of distance in between.
“We know that and I don’t have to tell the boys constantly.
“Fulham are a really good football-playing side and the performances they showed were not all rewarded with results.
“The fight for staying in the league is a tight one as well, so each point helps and they will go for everything.
“If we let them play, they will play and the more we let them play, the more we have to defend and the more you have to defend, the more you have to run.”
JK “I’m not the most experienced guy to tell you how it is when there is a big gap to other teams. We had that last year
— Carl Markham (@carlmarkham) December 11, 2020
Having run away with a first league title in 30 years last season, winning by a massive 18 points from back-to-back champions Manchester City, it is unlikely the scenario will be repeated this time around.
Seven points separate the top 10 heading into the latest round of matches, and with the challenges this compressed season has thrown up Klopp does not expect such a comfortable time.
“I am not the most experienced guy who can tell you how it is when you have a big gap between you and other teams, but last year, for whatever reason, it was like this,” he added.
“Before a game, it is exactly the same like always, you want to win this game because it is not that you think, ‘oh, there is a gap of 20 points between us and them, so we might play at 60 or 70 per cent’ – it is not like that.
“We felt under pressure from ourselves last year and that’s the same now, it didn’t change. You don’t look at other teams, it is much too early in the season.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 11, 2020
“You just create a basis for the rest of the year and that’s what we are still in.
“Whichever situation is there outside us, we cannot change, so we are not focused on it so we just try to win the next game and that’s difficult enough.”
With qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League secured, being level on points at the top of the table after 11 matches and an injury list showing signs of easing, there is a positive atmosphere at the club.
There remains one cloud on the horizon and that is the on-going uncertainty over the contract of midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.
The Holland international’s existing deal expires in the summer, meaning he is free to negotiate with continental European clubs from January 1.
Wijnaldum is set to return to the side at Craven Cottage having been rested for the Champions League dead rubber against Midtjylland in midweek and Klopp has no issues with the midfielder who plays the vast majority of minutes for him.
“The character of Gini Wijnaldum has never been in doubt,” he said.
“He has been here a long time and played in the majority of games. He’s helped us a lot in all the things we have achieved since he has been here too. A top player and a top character.”