Jurgen Klopp believes the expectation placed upon Liverpool following their finest ever start to a Premier League season means only becoming champions will qualify as a success.
Despite eight wins and three draws in their opening 11 top-flight matches, Liverpool only sit third in the standings as defending champions Manchester City and Chelsea have emulated the Reds’ unbeaten start.
The Merseysiders underlined their title challenge in the early part of the campaign with some fluent displays although a difficult run of fixtures has since stalled their progress.
Liverpool suffered a surprise Champions League defeat to Red Star Belgrade in midweek and Klopp is looking for some resiliency when they return to domestic action against Fulham at midday on Sunday.
“The season so far-wise, points-wise in the Premier League, has been really successful,” the German said.
“But it doesn’t really feel like that because there are two reasons in comparison with last year: free-flowing football in a few games and Man City and maybe Chelsea and a few others play a very good season as well.
“It feels a bit like this season can only be a success if we become champions this year. In a year our competitors are the champions of last year, the champions of two years ago, a more refreshed Arsenal and a more experienced Tottenham and Manchester United.
“That’s a really tough job but we have no problem with that, we go for everything. We have to build on our situation, we have to get better, to get more confidence out of the season.
“It’s all OK but this game on Tuesday was a rather massive knock which was not expected and now we have to react for us in the right way, not only on Sunday but in general.”
Midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita are both in line for a return to action at Anfield following their respective hamstring injuries.
Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains on the treatment table among players in the middle of the park and Klopp admitted the availability of Henderson and Keita leaves him with tough decisions to make.
“It’s good to have them back and it’s probably the first time that all midfield players, apart from Ox, are available,” Klopp said.
“It’s another thing to do, making decisions about who starts with who and stuff like that. It’s all about fitness levels and form, shape and then we will see.”
Fulham made an encouraging start following promotion from the Championship but have slid to the foot of the table after a miserable run of five consecutive defeats.
Klopp, though, bristled at suggestions Liverpool can put their visitors to the sword.
He said: “I would be really an idiot – a few people think I am but not that much – if I would talk about any goal difference before that game.
“This is a really strange situation for Fulham, I can really imagine how they feel. Their football is good, a lot of things are really good, they caused City a lot of problems (in a 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat).
“You will never score a goal against a team like Fulham with the quality Fulham have only because you go to win the game with the wrong attitude and think about scoring, scoring, scoring. This game is a big challenge for all of us.
“If somebody goes there and expects an easy game then please stay at home. It will not be, it’s a tough job to do.”
- Press Association