Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists being in a title race is not the prime motivating factor which drives him and his players through each day.
Defeat to Brighton in midweek left Liverpool seven points behind leaders Manchester City, Sunday’s visitors to Anfield, and led to the Reds boss and defender Andy Robertson accepting the champions were not currently in the running for top spot.
However, Klopp insists there is time for that situation to change but he will not start thinking about it for a couple of months at least.
“After two years now of getting this question all the time when we were close enough that it might have made some sense I just don’t see it at the moment,” he said, when asked about the title race.
“You have to win football games, if you do that often enough then at a specific moment in the season it is clear ‘OK, now we go for it’.
“We were in the last few years in that situation but in the moment we are not, so why should we think about it?
“What we have to think about is collecting enough points that it might happen in April or May again.
“It is not important, it is not what gets you up every morning or what drives you through the day.
“Not being so close to City or whoever is top of the table (it is not) we don’t like football and we think ‘it’s not working’. That’s not the case.
“We really try hard in a very tricky season and we will continue trying 100 per cent and Sunday is the next time.”
New Liverpool signing Ozan Kabak, who joined on loan from Schalke on deadline day, is available for the weekend having sat out the Brighton game as he was waiting for international clearance.
Klopp has a big decision to make on whether to throw the 20-year-old Turkey international straight into the game but, with the need to get Jordan Henderson, and possibly Fabinho, back into midfield, he may be forced into a radical plan.
“With our situation we will see who can play again, who can not play again and then we will see,” added Klopp, who hopes to have goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane and Fabinho back for the game.
“In an ideal world we’d have a few weeks to work on defensive things, especially on organisation.
“Ben and Ozan yesterday had an analysis meeting where they got shown all the stuff we do usually, like a ‘centre-half movie’.
“Today proper session, tomorrow proper session and then we will see.”
Defeat to City, who also have a match in hand, would effectively end Liverpool’s chances of defending their title.
They would still, however, the Champions League to focus on, even if their last-16, first-leg match against RB Leipzig is taking some planning.
The German authorities have banned most travellers from countries, including the UK, hit hard by new variants of Covid-19 and they have stressed the match on February 16 does not meet the requirements for an exception – something Klopp disagrees with.
Discussions on finding a solution appear to be centred on playing Leipzig’s ‘home’ game at a neutral venue, possibly Hungary’s Puskas Arena in Budapest, and they have until Monday to present a solution to UEFA.
“With all the stuff we do I think it would have been absolutely reasonable to make an exception, but I don’t know exactly who decided it in the German government but they said ‘so far not possible’,” said the manager.
“But maybe it is good to see for German people who are not in the subject, we are not infected. We have the same problems like you have.
“We know there is another strain but we are really in a bubble and we could play at Leipzig without spreading the virus. Let’s just say that once.
“But it is like it always was, the rules are rules and we will accept them so I don’t know where we will play.”