Andy Robertson believes Liverpool are experiencing no more than a “blip” in their pursuit of the Premier League title and has dismissed suggestions the pressure of being league leaders is starting to tell.
The Reds were perhaps fortunate to come away with a 1-1 draw from Monday night’s clash with West Ham and the four points they have dropped in their last two games means what could have been a seven-point lead over Manchester City is instead only three.
At both the London Stadium and in drawing at home Leicester, Liverpool have struggled for the fluency that had taken them to the top of the table, suggesting they could be at risk of throwing away their advantage, just as they did in losing the title to City five years ago.
Robertson believes the loss of the injured Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold is having an influence, but feels he and his team-mates are primed to respond.
“I wouldn’t say nerves are showing,” the 24-year-old said. “Did anyone say that when City dropped points against (Crystal) Palace and Leicester (in December)? I don’t think they did. It’s no different for us – people talk about pressure because we’ve not been in this position, but it’s February.
“Everyone needs to relax and try and enjoy the run-in – many other clubs want to be in the position we’re in just now. Nerves aren’t showing in the changing room. It’s been two poor results and poor performances, it happens during a long season. We need to get back to playing the better football we can, but it’s nothing to do with nerves.
“We’re having a wee blip and we need to just try and get over the line in a couple of games. The run-in will be exciting, but it’s time to try and enjoy it.
“We’d prefer to have a fully-fit squad. City dropped points when they had (Kevin) De Bruyne and Fernandinho missing, then they all came back and they’re in a good moment just now.
“We’ve got quite a few injuries and we need to try and get the boys back fit, but we’ve recruited and have a big enough squad that we should be able to deal with it.”
Declan Rice was again among those to impress for West Ham and he revealed that the significant improvement they demonstrated — following successive defeats by Wolves, AFC Wimbledon and Bournemouth — was inspired by a dressing-room inquest they held after that run.
“After that January that we had where we lost a load of games, we all had a meeting with each other and said, ‘Look boys, we all need to pull our fingers out’,” the 20-year-old said. “Because it was not West Ham and not the results we want.
“The players just said after the Wolves game, ‘We need to sort it out’. We had watched the Wolves game back and saw the problems that we were creating and the things we were doing. Last night we changed it around.”
On Marko Arnautovic, who ended up signing a new contract after being linked with a move to China, Rice added: “Nothing ever went on (with the forward). Whatever happened, happened. All the lads love Marko. He is great in the changing room. We all love Marko and we cannot wait for him to be back (from injury).”
Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has received another boost as he edges closer a return to fitness after he was included in their Champions League squad for the knockout phase.
The 25-year-old is nearing full fitness, ahead of schedule, after sustaining serious knee ligament damage in the semi-final first leg against Roma in April.
Klopp has been optimisic about the midfielder, saying he expected him to play before the end of the season, but his inclusion on the Champions League squad suggests that could be sooner rather than later.
Liverpool face Bayern Munich at home in their last-16 first leg on February 19.
Forward Ben Woodburn, who returned early from a loan spell at Sheffield United, and young defender Ki-Jana Hoever, who made his first-team debut in last month’s FA Cup defeat at Wolves are also included.
Nathaniel Clyne, Pedro Chirivella, and Kamil Grabara, who left on loan to Bournemouth, Extremadura and Aarhus respectively, and Dominic Solanke, who signed a permanent deal with Bournemouth last month, have been removed from the list.