Jurgen Klopp had been a little coy about Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes ahead of the new season, but the German coach soon let his optimism levels rise.
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Following a fourth-place finish in the PL in his first full season in charge at Anfield, Klopp has led the Reds back to the UEFA Champions League as they will take part in the two-legged playoff later this month to try and reach the group stage.
Although qualifying for the UCL group stage is a huge, and frankly easily achievable, target for Liverpool, they also have their minds focused on bigger prizes.
Speaking to the media ahead of Liverpool’s involvement in the Audi Cup (alongside Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Napoli) on Tuesday and Wednesday, Klopp revealed that winning the PL is at the forefront of his mind.
“We’ll be playing for the championship. We don’t start a season by not having any ambitions,” Klopp said. “We have to have our goals and I think we have a very good team now. We did have a bit of bad luck last season. I think we can play a little bit better. Let’s hope everything will work very well and that there isn’t much more to improve.”
Of course, all 20 teams in the Premier League can focus on winning the title ahead of the new season and after Leicester City’s success in 2015-16, why not?
Yet, is it really feasible for Liverpool to be among the title contenders?
Last season the Reds were phenomenal in attack but left plenty to be desired in defense and so far they’ve yet to drastically improve their defensive unit. Klopp has added Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke this summer, with Andrew Robertson coming in at left back from Hull City. Can Robertson usurp James Milner at left back? It’s unlikely, at least to start with.
On their day Liverpool can beat any team in the Premier League. We saw that last season against all of the big boys as they had a superb record against the rest of the top six, but it was silly defensive errors against teams outside of the perennial giants which really cost them. Klopp is right, Liverpool were unlucky last season with injuries as Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson all went down with injuries, while Dan Sturridge could never catch a break.
But unless Virgil Van Dijk — or a center back of similar ilk — arrives later this month, Liverpool’s defense will once again be their Achilles heel. Especially with the added pressure of UCL action to deal with.
Klopp’s optimism is infectious for Liverpool fans and neutrals alike but talk of a title push does seem a little off the mark given the huge amount of strengthening for both Manchester clubs, plus Tottenham keeping all of their stars, Arsenal adding more firepower and Chelsea strengthening their starting lineup.