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still on kop Despite all the knocks this season, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool look stronger than ever

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Liverpool's  Jordan Henderson celebrates with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane

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Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane

JOSE Mourinho did Jurgen Klopp’s talking for him with his post-match rant after Liverpool beat Spurs at Anfield last week.

The sight of Mourinho having a pop at Klopp after the game – and then suggesting his Spurs team were better than Liverpool – will have fired up the Premier League champions.

They responded magnificently with a 7-0 win at Crystal Palace last weekend, with the champions flexing their muscles after a high-profile opponent dared to question them.

While Mourinho was clearly misguided in his comments, he was right to suggest his team could have come away from that game with at least a point.

Yet Roberto Firmino’s last-minute winner in that game was not just a kick in the gut for Tottenham, but also a moment that could define this season.

Liverpool have been challenged on several levels as they set out to defend the Premier League title - and they have come out fighting, delivering more devastating blows than any of their rivals.

Everything has been thrown at Liverpool, from horrible injuries to key players like Virgil van Dijk and a succession of awful VAR decisions, but the cream always rises to the top and they are ending the year on a high.

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Jurgen Klopp has had plenty to contend with this season

Jurgen Klopp has had plenty to contend with this season

PA

Jurgen Klopp has had plenty to contend with this season

There have been moments when I wondered whether Klopp and his squad could cope with the hits coming their way, but we should never have doubted them.

This is a truly great football team and the performance they served up in the second half at Crystal Palace last weekend was a reminder of what they are all about.

The quality of their attacking play as they smashed in seven goals at Selhurst Park was breathtaking, and to be sitting in top spot after everything that has been thrown at them has been so impressive from Klopp and his players.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino remain the most potent attacking threat in the game – and with the best manager in world football pulling the strings, all the opposition are playing catch-up to this great Liverpool team.

They head into today’s game against West Bromwich Albion at Anfield with hope in their hearts as it feels like they may have overcome some of the biggest hurdles in this increasingly promising defence of the Premier League title.

We all questioned whether they could cope without the mighty presence of Van Dijk, and they have come up with all the right answers.

Fabinho has stepped up to the mark magnificently, while young Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have been superb when called upon.

Liverpool’s decision-makers may now believe they don’t need to buy a defender to fill in for Van Dijk – but I would still like to see them invest during the January transfer window, as they are still short in that position.

The rest of the squad looks so strong, with Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner on the way back to full fitness, while Diogo Jota should return next month.

Looking ahead to 2021, I can’t wait to see how young Curtis Jones develops, as he has emerged as a world-class footballer in the making over the last few months.

Jones looks like a brilliant transfer window signing and with players of that quality coming through, it means the doubts over Gini Wijnaldum’s future at the club are not so pressing.

Overall, the picture looks very rosy for Liverpool and my prediction that they will only need to collect around 85 points to clinch the title this season adds to my optimism that the New Year will bring more success for Klopp.

Manchester City will probably eventually emerge as the main challengers to Liverpool once again, but Pep Guardiola’s side continue to slip up and I’d expect that to continue.

Of the other contenders, Manchester United are one of the most bizarre teams we have seen in recent years, as they look terrible for long spells in games, and then they turn on the style in their forward line for a few minutes and end up winning.

I can’t see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unpredictable side getting near Liverpool in the title race, but they are capable of having a decent run of results with players like Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford in their line-up.

Spurs and Chelsea have slipped back in the pecking order in recent weeks.

One other factor that could come into play is the prospect of empty stands once again for the next few months.

I’d expect football to continue despite the new Covid-19 outbreak in England, but the absence of spectators at games has played a role in some strange results and it will be a factor again in the second half of this season.

What cannot be questioned is the team of 2020 so far have been Liverpool – and it’s hard to see at this moment how their momentum can be stopped.

In what has been a truly miserable year for the world amid this horrible pandemic, Liverpool have found a way to stay on track and continue to improve.

So long as Klopp and his key players remain focused on the task at hand in these strange times, there’s no reason why they can’t get their hands on more silverware in 2021.

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