As the team enjoy their second warm-weather retreat of 2019, Reds fans will undoubtedly remember how tepid the players looked after their last trip — a five-day stay in sunny Dubai — drawing 1-1 in consecutive games against less illustrious opposition, and looking disturbingly off the pace as they did so. A side that should have been reinvigorated following some hard-earned time off instead looked like the feeling of the Premier League had left their legs, and both Leicester and West Ham were able to unsettle the Anfield outfit with an aggressive, physical approach.
The Reds got their groove back against Bournemouth, cruising to a 3-0 win in which the margin could have been double that, and manager Jürgen Klopp is adamant that the final game of the three is the one that truly represents what his players are capable of.
“I was so happy about the Bournemouth game,” the gaffer told the club’s official site on Thursday. “And not because of the result, that was important as well, but about the way we played in that game was so important to us because it was only after three weeks a little reminder: ‘Right, that’s how we can play as well.’
“I get that people start doubting pretty much immediately: ‘What happens now we didn’t win against Leicester?’ I think that was a difficult game for different reasons and then West Ham, we didn’t play well. That’s the truth but we still got a point and then against Bournemouth, a really good game.
“And now that’s the way we want to play,” Klopp continued “We have to be lively. Lively and full of confidence you can only be if you really believe in what you do, that’s the truth. We are convinced about the way we want to play and you cannot get a guarantee.
“I’m sorry for that, but especially in that league you cannot get a guarantee. Man City doesn’t have a guarantee in this moment, Tottenham doesn’t have a guarantee but a big opportunity like us and City as well.
“So these three teams will fight for the title, that’s how it is, and I don’t know who will be there at the end. But it will be a team who plays the rest of the season with a lot of confidence, with an outstanding-high work-rate, with a lot of passion, full of desire, all that stuff. Who plays really front-footed and tries to win, not tries to avoid losing.”
There is hard to find fault with the manager’s analysis of his team, and there was a tangible difference in how the players drove forward against Bournemouth, taking the game to their opponents and forcing Eddie Howe’s men into dealing with the Reds, where Leicester and West Ham had been able to turn the tables on the Merseysiders.
There are personnel, tactical and fitness factors to take into account, of course, but confidence and self-belief absolutely looked a vital component in the Reds’ last performance, and Klopp’s men will need that characteristic as they head into the final stretch of the season, starting with a six-game, 22-day stretch that includes a double-header against perennial Champions League contender Bayern Munich, a Merseyside derby, and a clash with a resurgent Manchester United.
Fingers crossed there will be no further crises of confidence until the league title is wrapped up in May.