Manager Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool cannot use their intense schedule as an excuse heading into their top-of-the-table Premier League clash against Manchester City.
The 1-0 Champions League defeat against Napoli was as concerning as it was disappointing. Losing to a 90th-minute goal will have upset Klopp, but more worrying was the number of players who underperformed.
Sunday’s visit of the defending Premier League champions is both clubs’ seventh match in 23 days between the September and October international breaks.
Liverpool won their first three but have since lost two and drawn one, and included in that half-dozen are Champions League encounters against Paris St Germain and Napoli and two games against Chelsea.
In the same period, City have won five and lost one - a surprise Champions League defeat to Lyon - although the highest-placed top-flight side they have met in that time is Brighton, currently 15th.
“It is a tough game, absolutely,” said Klopp, whose side last season drew six of their 12 fixtures immediately after a Champions League tie.
It is absolutely intense since the last international break. We cannot change that so we have to make sure we are ready. We don’t have to think about intensity. We have three days to recover and then we will face Man City.
“It would’ve been difficult any way at any time of the season, it is always difficult, but let’s have a look how the players are after the game and then we will prepare.
“Then we have our crowd at our backs. You could see Napoli used the atmosphere and we couldn’t calm it down, but on Sunday it will be 100% different.”
Liverpool have had some positive news regarding midfielder Naby Keita with the midfielder not yet ruled out of the weekend despite being carried off in Naples. The Guinean, making his debut in the competition for the club he joined in the summer, lasted just 19 minutes before going off and being transported to a local hospital as a precaution after complaining of severe back pain.
After being assessed he was cleared to travel home with the rest of the squad yesterday and could still feature against City.
This weekend is the second in succession Liverpool have faced a top-three side, having drawn at Chelsea thanks to Daniel Sturridge’s late equaliser on Saturday. Both teams have 19 points and while City have a superior goal difference, their record at Anfield is unimpressive.
Liverpool have won their last six home matches against their north-west rivals and are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions, with their last defeat to City at Anfield coming in May 2003.
They have also not lost a home Premier League match since late January but are not yet close to replicating their best form of last season. Sadio Mane has not scored in his last six matches, Roberto Firmino in his last four while Mohamed Salah has found the net just once in his last seven.
Defeat in Naples will be a worry but it may be the wake-up call Klopp’s players need.
“It’s a good game to learn from. That’s what we’re going to do - we’re going to analyse the game and see what we can do better,” midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum told liverpoolfc.com.
We know what we can bring, we still have confidence, but this was a reality check on how things must not go. It’s a good lesson for us to get better. We have to take it as a lesson and then we have to carry on.
“We have done it better this season, so we can do it - but we have to do it every game.”
Meanwhile, City will use a different route when they travel to Anfield on Sunday following the violent scenes which greeted their team coach last season.
Merseyside Police have said they are determined to prevent a repeat of the trouble that occurred before the Champions League match between the two sides on April 4.
At least one window was smashed on the journey through streets that were filled with thousands of fans, a number throwing flares and smoke bombs, and a replacement vehicle had to be found for the trip home.
City will approach Liverpool’s ground from a different direction on Sunday in order to avoid passing the Arkles pub, a popular pre-match meeting point for Liverpool fans.
City have held talks with police about the measures which will be in place this weekend. The 4.30pm kick-off is eagerly anticipated with City top of the Premier League and Liverpool second, with both teams unbeaten.
Extra police will be on duty at the match.