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Jurgen Klopp not prepared to place title decider tag on Man City clash

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists beating Manchester City will not guarantee them success in the Premier League despite Sunday’s meeting being billed as a title decider.

His side will arrive at the Etihad Stadium knowing an 11th successive league win would put them two points ahead of their rivals, a small but significant advantage at this stage of the season.

But as there is no room for manoeuvre or the slightest error Klopp knows the race will be far from over, especially as his side have the harder-looking run in, with matches against Everton and Manchester United to come before the end of the month.

The morale-boosting 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Benfica has allowed them to put one foot in the Champions League semi-finals.

It means they make the short trip down the M62 brimming with confidence as they attempt to get their first league victory at the Etihad since 2015, although they have won there once since in a European tie.

Mohamed Salah goal vs Man City, Anfield, 2021 (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

“If we win against City, which is already difficult enough, I think no one would think, ‘that’s it, decided’, because of the quality of the opponent,” said Klopp.

“We play now against the best team in the world but we will give it a try anyway.

“Everyone knows about the importance of the next game, but after this game there will be other game in another competition but also in the Premier League as well.

“If you cannot be first you want to be second, if you are behind then you want to come closer, if you are close you want to overtake.

“That’s the situation and we will give it a proper try.”

Liverpool’s bid for an unprecedented – but still unlikely – quadruple remains on track as, having already secured the Carabao Cup in February, they edged closer a last-four meeting in Europe with either Bayern Munich or Villarreal.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - APRIL 05: Ibrahima Konate of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at Estadio da Luz on April 05, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues - UEFA)

Having cruised into a 2-0 lead through Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane, a number of missed chances and Darwin Nunez’s goal just after half-time were reminders that even when things are going well the mood can quickly turn.

Former Porto winger Luis Diaz’s 87th-minute goal restored the two-goal cushion but Klopp is taking nothing for granted in this tie or future games.

“We are in the quarter-final, the semi-final (of the FA Cup) and the further you go in competitions the harder it gets,” he added.

“The Chelsea (League Cup) final was incredibly intense and that’s how all the games will be from now on.

“Since late December it was clear if we want to achieve something we had better win all our games. This is not really likely we know, that’s why we take it game by game.

“Then, maybe, it is a little bit more possible. But it will be really tough.”

A minor concern, although Klopp will not publicly admit it, is the form of Mohamed Salah.

He has not looked the same player since coming back from the Africa Cup of Nations as a runner-up and he has not scored from open play since February 19, with the last of his three subsequent goals from the penalty spot coming on March 12.

Speculation continues over his contract impasse as he looks for a lucrative new deal to replace the one which expires next summer and Klopp, who has fielded questions weekly on the situation, admits that is not helpful.

The Egypt international was substituted midway through the second half after missing a couple of chances but his manager insists he is not yet at the stage where he has to offer the 28-goal forward moral support.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Jürgen Klopp as he is substituted during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Completely normal. I did nothing different to what I do usually do,” said Klopp on the way he handled Salah when he came off.

“In that situation everyone wants to score. With all the stories around him at the moment it is clear Mo wants to score as well.

“It is a tough period for Mo and Sadio. Both boys came back from Africa and it is not easy; massive pressure on both shoulders.

“Now it is time for it to settle. It was an important game (in Lisbon) for Mo and Sadio. One could score, one could not. But everything will be fine.”

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