Liverpool took only their second defeat of the season with their 1-0 loss at Leicester, but the ridiculous standards in the Premier League title frame make it a major blow.
The Reds have now reached the halfway point in the campaign and sit second in the Premier League, having taken 41 points from their first 19 games.
They boast a goal difference (+34) at least 25 higher than any club outside of the top three, with their return double that of bottom side Norwich (-34).
But Liverpool came out of their Tuesday night trip to the King Power despondent, with genuine concerns over whether their title race was already run.
“It was not our plan to give City the chance to run away,” Klopp explained after Ademola Lookman’s goal consigned the Reds to defeat.
“If we play like tonight we cannot think about catching up with City.
“If we play our football and we can win games, we can see how many points we can get and what that means.”
While Klopp insisted that his “main concern” is “not City,” but to find “a proper explanation for tonight,” the focus in the aftermath of this loss is undoubtedly the gulf between first and second.
Though the postponement of the Boxing Day clash with Leeds skews the table, Liverpool reached the halfway mark six points behind the league leaders.
No problem, right? As Virgil van Dijk said: “We’re in December. The season is so, so long. Anything can happen.”
As recent history shows, though, it will be a much tougher task to reduce their deficit and overtake City than it would have been in seasons gone by.
If they keep up that form, which is easy to imagine, City will end the campaign with 94 points; if Liverpool maintain their course, they will finish with 82.
Incredibly, that 94-point tally would be the second-lowest produced by a Premier League champion in each of the last five seasons.
City would have won four of the last five campaigns, then, with an average of 95 points per season.
That includes the 42-game campaigns of 1992/93, 1993/94 and 1994/95, during which period an average of 88 points was required to top the table.
The current English top flight has been running in a 38-game format since 1994, and in the 22 seasons between then and 2017/18, the champions averaged 86 points.
Man United (twice), Arsenal (once) and Chelsea (three times) have all taken 90+ points, but those seasons are very much an outlier: the lowest title-winning tally was just 75, when United lifted the trophy in 1996/97.
It all changed, though, with the appointment of Guardiola at the Etihad in 2016, and the strengthening of City’s financial grip of football.
Guardiola deemed it a “failure” to end his maiden season without a trophy, but since then he has picked up eight major trophies including three Premier League titles – with City on course to clinch another this time around.
In reality, those figures could be much, much higher at the Etihad.
At least publically, Klopp and his players have never looked to use the spending power of their main title rivals as an excuse – more so, it serves as a motivational tactic, painting Liverpool as perennial underdogs.
But the strength and quality in depth available to Guardiola means that every point dropped is almost a disaster, and three dropped at the King Power makes a mountain to climb.
“It is really tricky to be ahead of them.
“So far at least we are not completely out of reach, it’s not at the absolute no chance anymore but of course, you know City will not drop a lot of points so you better not drop points yourself.”
The irony in those comments coming ahead of only the second loss of the season will not be lost on Klopp, nor will it that it was Leicester – who had lost 6-3 to City two days previous and made five changes to their lineup in between – who inflicted that defeat.
Leicester have suffered with both COVID-19 and injuries throughout this festive period, with two of their fixtures postponed so far, and their plight is shared by almost every other club.
There is certainly an element of luck to this, but it also highlights the exceptional depth available to Liverpool’s two title rivals and City in particular.
While other games are postponed because clubs cannot name 14 eligible players, City can afford to drop Jack Grealish and Phil Foden for disciplinary reasons, while also sanctioning Ferran Torres’ January move to Barcelona.
On the face of it, while Klopp can call upon 11 world-class players and a more-than-capable band of deputies, Guardiola invariably has two or three genuine game-changers on his bench at any one time.
Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are among City’s four most subbed-on players in the league, and each could at least contend for a starting spot at Anfield.
With Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi currently injured, just over a week before the tournament kicks off in Cameroon, Klopp could be desperately short of attackers at a time when his side cannot afford to drop any more points.
The landscape of the Premier League – in a global pandemic, with one major tournament held midway through this season and another, the ridiculous World Cup in Qatar, held halfway through the next – makes the achievements of Klopp’s condensed squad all the more impressive.
It is simply unfortunate that they have found themselves up against the richest, strongest and most consistent side in Premier League history.