Problems are mounting for Klopp after falling 6 points behind Man City with Chelsea next in line without Salah and Mane.
Liverpool’s pursuit of Man City is on the verge of going up in flames. Tuesday’s disappointing defeat at a fatigued Foxes was much more concerning for Jurgen Klopp.
Now, the gap to the top is six points at the halfway stage. The Reds are back level with Chelsea, who they face in a now-pivotal encounter on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge. For the Reds, it really does feel like a season-defining period.
Since a convincing Merseyside derby victory over Everton at the beginning of the month, the performance level has dropped. Against Wolves, Aston Villa and Newcastle, they pulled through, marginally. Yet in the last fortnight, against stronger opponents, their vulnerabilities have shown.
Whisper it quietly, but Mohamed Salah’s last two displays have been underwhelming. Of course, the Egyptian was never going to sustain his astronomically impressive start to the season. Nevertheless, his missed penalty and rebound on Tuesday sums up his current plight.
What is worse, however, is the form of fellow African forward Sadio Mane. The Senegalese is ending 2021 how he started it: at best off-the-pace, at worst completely out-of-form. The 29-year-old has not scored since the 4-0 win against Arsenal on November 20, a barren run of 808 minutes.
However, following the upcoming Chelsea game, he form of Liverpool’s leading duo isn’t actually Klopp’s problem.
The pair, along with Guinea captain Naby Keita, depart for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. With the final on February 6, they could miss up to six matches, dependent on Cup results and rescheduled games.
As a result, Diogo Jota’s role becomes even more crucial, as does Roberto Firmino’s – with the Brazilian yet to catch fire this season.
Given a prior run of eight wins in a row in all competitions since the November international break, one point from six does not represent a crisis.
But Sunday at Stamford Bridge is now huge. Both level on points… who will be City’s closest challenger this season?