Is the title challenge over for Liverpool?

Opinion

After a courageous display against league favourites Chelsea, Liverpool still have it all to do if they are to keep the title race alive.

Having gone five home games without a win in all competitions for the first time since October 2012, this was certainly not a vintage Liverpool display, but undoubtedly better than their previous performances this month. Klopp has proven that his team is still capable of battling with the top teams in the league, regardless of their failures against lesser opposition.

There is however some worrying signs that the club may not be completely void of this poor run of form, with their squad depth a major issue. Klopp made it pretty evident that he wouldn’t be strengthening his side this January, but perhaps they could have done with one or two additions.

The manager was both criticized and applauded for fielding a youthful side against both Plymouth and Wolves, but those involved were essentially the club’s second-strongest team. Compare this with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, who both fielded weakened sides yet progressed into the FA Cup fifth round. The major difference here is that Liverpool’s under-strength side included a handful of youngsters with very little experience, whereas Manchester United and Chelsea could afford to play the likes of World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger and £33m signing Michy Batshuayi.

A club’s bench also signifies their squad depth and intent for the current season, and again top clubs such as Chelsea and both Manchester sides have huge strength and depth in their bench, with high quality players in the ranks that are more than capable of changing a game’s fortunes. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Liverpool.

With their high-intensity attitude, often one that come’s under scrutiny from many pundits and ex-professionals, will we see burnout in some Liverpool stars at this crucial stage of the season? Regulars Henderson, Firmino and Milner are all in the top five players for average distance covered, while Liverpool as a team are comfortably ahead in average distance covered at a remarkable 117km.

These professional players are unquestionably are fitter than ever, but can they keep up these incredible statistics in such a competitive league for all 38 games? The Reds are of now out of all other competitions, and so this could have a significant silver lining after all. Klopp can focus solely on progressing in the league, although this brings about another worrying problem; their fixture list.

After a forgettable January which brought some tricky tests, the next couple of months will determine their success this season. February presents away ties with Hull and champions Leicester, but more importantly, second place Tottenham arrive at Anfield for another evening showdown. March meanwhile welcomes high-flying Arsenal for another extremely difficult home tie, followed by a trip to the Etihad two weeks later. And when the Liverpool men can make it through that, a Merseyside derby awaits at the very beginning of April.

With long-term contracts tied up for Philippe Coutinho and youngster Joe Gomez, and another lined up for Adam Lallana, Klopp is seemingly satisfied with the squad he has in front of him. With huge games rapidly approaching, it will be interesting to witness how the rest of the season unfolds for title chasers Liverpool.