Liverpool have the quality to win the Premier League title but do they have the hunger?

Jurgen Klopp’s side responded impeccably to the pain and torment of that near miss defeat to City, winning the title in such devastating fashion 12 months later there was no question about their mental strength. They used a setback as motivation rather than an excuse to soak in the bath of self pity.

Now they must prove they can do it again. Top of the table at Christmas means nothing – Klopp’s words not mine and have wandered into a sticky spot, bogged down in heavy ground, slipping and sliding while others remain sure and fleet footed around them.

Manchester United have pulled level, Manchester City’s warm breath can be felt on their necks, while Leicester City, Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa and, yes, Southampton, as well as Chelsea remain close enough to strike. Liverpool have become the hunted, the pursued, just as the energy has seemed to sap from their legs. When tiredness sets in, it is not just physical exhaustion, it drains the mind too.

This is the Premier League, the competition of no easy games and multi team title races. Relentlessly punishing, persistently challenging and comfortingly difficult to predict when you have six teams starting with title aspirations and enough quality elsewhere to ensure there is no luxury to move down through the gears.

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