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Liverpool alternative is not worth thinking about for Jurgen Klopp – Paul Gorst

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk

Viewing Saturday’s Merseyside derby as anything other than an opportunity could be deadly for Liverpool.

One on hand, though, it’s easy to see why there might be a sense of fatalism, for some, surrounding the 238th edition of this local skirmish.

After building up a sense of invincibility at a seemingly impenetrable Anfield, a 68-game, near four-year unbeaten run in the Premier League came to a crashing halt last month.

The sight of Burnley wheeling away with maximum points was a tough one to take for supporters who aren’t even allowed to press their faces up to the glass door of the Anfield entrance right now.

Would the Clarets have been able to seal the points with that late penalty had 54,000 been allowed inside the ground?

We will, of course, never know, but it doesn’t require any leap of faith to suggest the Kop’s roar would have helped the hosts.

But that shock loss to Sean Dyche’s well-drilled yet ordinary group of players was compounded on February 3 by Brighton.

After managing to get themselves back into some sort of title contention with a pulsating few days in London against Tottenham and West Ham, another 1-0 reverse at Anfield ended them quickly.

Once more, a hard-working set of players stuck rigidly to a defensive gameplan and waited for their big chance.

It was one they duly took to leave Merseyside with a win for the first time in the Premier League.

A 4-1 loss to Manchester City later that week was an improvement to an extent, purely from a performance perspective.

That was until the self-destruct button was pressed firmly by Alisson Becker, at least.

That gave City their first win at Anfield for 18 years, as they skipped away from L4 having gleefully profited from a confidence-shot, injury-hit Liverpool unable to lean on the support of their fans when they needed it most.

It was a crucial factor that was not lost on Pep Guardiola as he toasted his first win at Anfield, post-match.

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“I’m so proud of the guys to be the ones to break the record, it shows how difficult it is,” he said.

“Hopefully, next time we can do it with a similar performance with spectators as Anfield with and without [fans] is completely different.

“I know I couldn’t imagine after 1-1, Anfield could influence the players.”

Which leads us to this weekend’s visit from Everton – the first since football returned to our television screens in June.

Just how will Liverpool react as they enter this historic fixture in the middle of their worst run in the league for years?

An atrocious sequence of results from the visitors at this venue offers plenty of comfort. Or at least it should do.

The Blues have won just four times at Anfield in the league since 1977.

Their infamous record is well documented and makes the 22-year period between 1977 and 1999 look like a veritable feast by comparison of the years since.

September 1999, of course, was the last time Everton were able to clasp three points inside enemy territory.

But perhaps Everton will be viewing this game as their best opportunity of ridding themselves of this deeply-rooted psychological problem in years?

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Rolling across Stanley Park with an elite-level coach in Carlo Ancelotti, the Reds’ most fierce of rivals will consider themselves well in the hunt for a top-four place.

If opportunity certainly knocks for Everton, it should also be ringing Jurgen Klopp’s buzzer on Saturday evening.

It is why this game can possibly be considered the most important derby since an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley nine years ago.

Top four is also the summit of Liverpool’s ambitions now after a largely dreadful post-Christmas run, but remembering exactly who they are – the dominant force in this fixture – can serve the Premier League champions well.

Saturday’s game simply has to be seen as the perfect chance to get back on track at Anfield.

It is the ideal one to bring confidence back to a squad that has been bereft of it for so long.

The alternative, even in this most implausible of seasons, simply doesn’t bear thinking about for Klopp.

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