Jurgen Klopp is unbeaten as Liverpool manager in his last 55 Premier League home matches. Ahead of hosting Crystal Palace – the last club to defeat his side at Anfield in April 2017 – he understandably holds the achievements of his team in the intervening period with great pride.
The 53-year-old German is on the cusp of doing something no Liverpool manager has achieved since club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish in 1989-90, when the club last won a league title.
In the 30 years that have since passed there have been near misses to ending that wait – none more so than last season when they fell just one point short of Manchester City after an unforgettable title race.
Now, after a three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, Klopp is left questioning just how he has managed to oversee such a sustained transformation in the club’s fortunes, with City 20 points behind them this season.
“If you watch City’s game [a 5-0 win against Burnley on Monday], the only question I have is, ‘how is it possible that anyone has 20 points more than them?” he tells Sky Sports News, when asked what have been the defining moments in their league campaign.
“How is that possible?! I don’t understand it to be honest. We must have done a lot of things right. There is not one game.
“The consistency of the boys, the level how we performed not only this season [but] plus last season is incredible.
“That gave us the possibility to have this amount of points. There were so many difficult games, so many difficult moments and the boys found a solution in the right moment. The belief was there until the final whistle.”
The current 20-point gap over Pep Guardiola’s side, which was as high as 25 points in February, remains the biggest lead in top-flight history before this season, with Klopp later describing, during his pre-match press conference, the gap between the two clubs as “unthinkable”.
However, Klopp will be determined to ensure his side do not slow up, with their current tally of 83 points 17 short of the Premier League record set by City under Guardiola in 2017/18.
“So far it was exceptional,” he adds. “That is done now, eight games to go for us.”
Klopp is not a man to be concerned with the possibility with destiny. The mantra of one game at a time has never been more true for the Liverpool boss.
Should his side beat Palace on Wednesday and City overcome Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the following night, Klopp would have the possibility to seal the title against last season’s champions when the two clubs meet on July 2.
“I understand on one side that we always talk about when we can win the title but on the other side the only chance, we have to do it is to win football games,” he says.
“We don’t want to sit and wait until City lose a game. They don’t look like they will lose a game, honestly, when you saw [them play against Burnley] and Arsenal.
“That is not how we are and who we are. We want to play football and win football games, that is our target against Crystal Palace – a team that was in good shape before the lockdown and came out in a good shape.
“Four clean sheets in a row is a massive point. We have to be ready for a tough game.”
The Champions League title last season was of particular personal significance for Klopp, who had lost his previous three finals in charge at Anfield, and he has a simple message for the club’s supporters amid questions over how the club will look to continue to strengthen.
“Whatever we do is for the club and our fans,” he says. “We have to make decisions independent of public opinions.”
Despite a reluctance to discuss where the club might look to bolster amid an uncertain picture over the next transfer window, Klopp is certain of one thing – there is no shortage of young talent on the club’s books.
Teenage trio Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and Sepp van den Berg are among the contingent of young players highly regarded within the club who all featured during the club’s League Cup campaign earlier this season.
“They impress every day,” he beams. “If I say today the future is bright then maybe it is a bit too much pressure on the boys and I don’t want to do that but it looks really promising what the boys offer.”
“The longer we can train together with them, without interruption from games like the last four weeks, the better it is for them. They have made big steps but there are still a few to come.”
A victory against Palace on Wednesday would move Liverpool one step forward in their development, but do not expect Klopp to be satisfied as he plans how to maintain their success.