Jürgen Klopp says Premier League title race is too close to call

Liverpool manager remains coy about possible role for Alcântara against Southampton

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcântara in action against Newcastle United  at St James’s Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Photograph: Peter Powell/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcântara in action against Newcastle United at St James’s Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Photograph: Peter Powell/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

 

Jürgen Klopp has acknowledged this season’s Premier League title race is too close to call and seems likely to go to the wire.

“This season is a tough one for the supporters,” said Liverpool’s manager as he prepared to take his defending champions to Southampton on Monday night. “If you are a neutral you will love it. Our season so far is good but I’m not surprised it is this close. This year is tough.

“I am pretty sure it will go right to the wire. It is tough for all of us [challenging teams], which is the reason why it’s so close.”

Liverpool lead the Premier League on goal difference before the match against Southampton, and a host of clubs are within touching distance of the top.

Thiago Alcântara, following a highly encouraging cameo performance after stepping off the bench in the 0-0 draw at Newcastle last Wednesday, is in contention to begin influencing Liverpool’s fortunes for the better by potentially starting at Southampton.

The creative midfielder has made only three Premier League appearances for Liverpool since arriving from Bayern Munich, with a positive Covid-19 test, followed by a knee injury, blunting his impact.

Understandably coy

Klopp remained understandably coy about the midfielder’s likely role at Southampton. “Unfortunately I have not known Thiago that long. A few months only. He played 20 minutes for us [at Newcastle] which was special and was about creating, which is his best skill. He has only had two sessions with the team [since his injury].

“We will see, he played 20 minutes against Newcastle and I don’t know how he’ll react. We will see. He has a chance. The boys who have done the job in midfield so far [in his absence] did exceptionally well, so it is not that we cannot survive if Thiago does not start the next game. But it is very good he is now fit and obviously in contention. I like that a lot.”

With Virgil van Dijk likely to miss the majority of the second half of the season – if not all of it – after ACL surgery in October, Joe Gomez likely to be sidelined until late spring by the after effects of another knee operation, and Joël Matip expected to miss Liverpool’s next four games with groin trouble, Klopp is desperately short of central defensive options.

Transfer window

At Newcastle Klopp fielded the versatile, but out-of-position, Fabinho and the inexperienced Nat Phillips at the heart of his back four, but the Liverpool manager – who also has the 19-year-old centre back Rhys Williams in his squad – indicated he was unlikely to sign cover during this month’s transfer window and preferred to promote from within.

“We have solutions within the squad but, if we can do something in the window, I don’t know,” he said. “It is like that. It is a very difficult transfer window. Not all of the clubs have real money. Doing something makes no sense. Doing the right thing makes sense. So far we really liked what we have done. We have three centre-halves at the moment. I liked Nat [Phillips] at Newcastle. He’s a clever boy and is using his ability to help us a lot.”

Southampton will be without goalkeeper Alex McCarthy for the visit of Liverpool after he tested positive for Covid-19. The 31-year-old is self-isolating.

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