JURGEN KLOPP escaped a certain amount of criticism last season.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Manchester United, Pep Guardiola’s at City and to a lesser extent Antonio Conte’s at Chelsea, meant that the spotlight was elsewhere.
Things have changed somewhat, and with Liverpool seventh in the Premier League, and having won only one of their last three league games, Klopp is the manager under pressure ahead of the clash with United at Anfield on Saturday lunchtime.
A defeat for the home side would see them fall a massive ten points behind their great rivals, and even though we are only in the middle of October, it’s a gap they will find impossible to close.
Going forward there’s little for Liverpool fans to complain about, and who knows what might have happened against Manchester City if Sadio Mane wasn’t dismissed early on.
While Klopp has reenergised and installed a fluidity to the attacking side of their game, the same can’t be said further back.
His failure to solve issues in at least two other areas of his team is proving costly already, and means for the first time in his Liverpool career, he’s started to take some flak.
They say that confidence starts in goal and spreads, but Simon Mignolet and deputy Loris Karius continue to look brittle.
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In front of them, the defence appears neglected and when under spells of pressure the back four looks easily confused which contributes to a lack of shape and organisation.
Opposition teams have taken note too, and when they play at Anfield, they know that the inevitable opportunity will arrive for them, if they can keep the defensive door shut at the other.
Mane is undoubtedly a class act, but his hamstring injury – picked up while on international duty with Senegal – is a significant blow and means United have one less attacking problem to worry about.
Philippe Coutinho is the other outstanding player and even though Mo Salah has made an impressive start to his Liverpool career, the Brazilian is the one that Jose Mourinho will instruct his players to crowd out.
United have injury worries of their own with Marouane Fellaini joining Paul Pogba in the treatment room.
Nemanja Matic will be partnered by Ander Herrera in midfield and at the heart of defence Phil Jones should be fit enough to retain his place alongside Eric Bailly.
With David De Gea in goal, United will feel confident that they have enough experience in the key areas of their starting XI to crowd Coutinho out and prevent him from finding space to free Salah.
Liverpool’s other problem is Romelu Lukaku, who is in the form of his life, and has hit 11 goals in his first 10 games at his new club.
Remarkably, some still raise questions about his ability to convert chances at the highest level but that could change on Saturday when he comes up against a Liverpool defence that is the third worst in the league behind West Ham United and bottom of the table Crystal Palace.
It’s impossible to get too confident ahead of a Liverpool versus United fixture but after the two lifeless draws last campaign, and Liverpool’s defensive frailty this, I’m not expecting that pattern to continue.
Because of Liverpool’s defensive problems and because the pressure is on them to pick up at least a point, it would be disappointing to see Mourinho play for the draw.
Last season you could accept heading to places like Anfield and leaving with a point.
But United are in red hot form and with the chance of going back to the top of the league, albeit briefly if City beat Stoke later in the day, then it would send a message to the doubters that this United side are in it for the long haul between now and next May.