After spending the past month playing before Manchester City each weekend, getting the chance to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven and forcing City to play catch-up, Liverpool will spend the next month playing second.
Today, City play Newcastle, and barring something unlikely*, they will narrow the gap to one before the Reds play. It will be the same on the weekend, and then the next match, and then the next. Jürgen Klopp, though, says he’s not especially bothered by that.
“There’s no difference,” Klopp said at his press conference today. “If we win our game we are not interested in other results. How can we change our approach? I said it a few times, that I expect City to win every game. It makes sense that you think like this.”
In theory, of course, it makes sense—and no matter who plays first the safe assumption is that City will win their game each week. Yet there is at least the impression that playing first grants an advantage, putting more pressure on your opponent if you win.
And certainly the pundits on television will take every chance to talk about City narrowing the gap to one—after it was the broadcasters who had Liverpool’s games for the next month shifted so that they always play after the side chasing them in the table.
It will be up to Liverpool, starting tomorrow, to prove that Klopp’s words aren’t just empty platitudes and that, no matter who plays first, they can focus on just doing their job. Week in and week out. Just like they’ve been doing all along so far this season.
“I really believe that you have to do your own work,” Klopp added. “Don’t be concentrated on other teams, it doesn’t help. I expect we will be one point up before the game tomorrow, so that doesn’t bother me.”