Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp accepts it will be a tough enough battle just to qualify for the Champions League this season before he can even think about their title defence.
The goalless draw at home to current Premier League leaders Manchester United, in conjunction with Leicester’s win on Saturday and Manchester City’s victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday night, saw Klopp’s side drop to fourth.
That is only five points ahead of ninth-placed West Ham and, in this most unusual of seasons, with points being dropped by all teams, the Reds boss is aware the competition is likely to be closer than ever.
“In the season when we came second (2018/19), the day when I started really thinking about the title race was the day when it was clear that we are in the Champions League,” he said.
“I know my job and I know what I have to do. The most important thing is to qualify for the Champions League and I know how difficult it is. This season will be a tough race for the top four. True.
“I have no idea and I cannot decide how people look at it. I know that football fans in general are not the most patient species on this planet, so they want to win each football game.
“I’m not too different to that but I am long enough in the business to know that you have to go through more difficult periods as well.
“It’s not the most difficult in my life – not even close to it – so it’s just a situation where we play football and have had injuries, still have injuries but got used to the injuries we had in the long term and now players coming back.”
The match against their arch-rivals never lived up to its top-of-the-table billing and, while Liverpool had the best of the opening hour, United could easily have snatched victory in the latter stages.
They were denied by goalkeeper Alisson, who pulled off two good close-range saves to deny Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer admits they left Anfield disappointed not to have taken all three points and ended Liverpool’s long, unbeaten league run which was extended to 68 matches with the draw.
Solksjaer felt they did not do enough to threaten their opponents’ makeshift centre-back pairing of midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.
“They are a good side and they have some injury problems but we didn’t pounce on that,” he said.
“We were a bit disappointed in the performance, not just the result.
“We didn’t do well enough to cause them problems in the first half but we defended well and they didn’t create too many chances.
“We know we have players who can win you a game in the blink of a second and Bruno and Paul almost did.
“I think everyone was a bit disappointed with the way we started the game but that is a good feeling to have that we were disappointed in the performance.”