Liverpool have largely disappointed after big wins against Hoffenheim and Arsenal in August. A seven-goal win over NK Maribor does not alter the fact that only a string of positive results will be enough to restore faith in at least a strong campaign where Liverpool can push at the top end.
For Jürgen Klopp, Manchester City aren’t too far ahead despite acknowledging the 5-0 defeat as "a decisive day" in the momentum for both clubs. Until Mané was sent off, Manchester City were troubled in a way that no other side has done this season. That neither alters the result nor covers the contrasting fortunes since that game.
"I don’t compare City with us but I think everyone can see we are not 500 miles away," Klopp said. "But they fly. It was a very decisive day when we lost 5-0. Dealing with a 5-0 defeat is not the easiest thing. We didn’t lose confidence but we were not that fluent afterwards and it was not like we could close our eyes and finish [thinking about it].
"They did exactly the opposite. I saw the Stoke goals, you see the shot from Fernandinho and you think: ‘If it works, it works even like this’. They are a fantastic team and we don’t have to compare, but it starts so early again with us having to apologise for the season so far because one team is flying."
Manchester City went into the season as favourites after such impressive transfer business in the summer, and "they probably did exactly what they had to do" as Klopp saw it. Yet the finishing is the big difference for a manager that knows Pep Guardiola as well as any manager in the Premier League bar José Mourinho.
Klopp added: "Their way of football I would say is not something we are too far away from, but to be as clinical as they have been so far? We weren’t. That’s the thing. We are still in the race, not with City in the moment because they have I don’t how many points, and I don’t say already that we should only fight for a top four place. Performance-wise we are a team that should be there but now we have to get the results.
"We can make steps. From a very good season last year, we can make steps this year. Position-wise I think it should be possible but it is difficult with the few points we have given away. It is a long season. If we can bring in consistency and be more ruthless, be more clinical in situations because of confidence and all that stuff, then we can win games. I would say a lot of games. In the end we will see where it leads us but again it could be a good basis to build on for the next year."