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Klopp crisis Why the real pain for Liverpool could still lie ahead as their reign as champions comes to an end

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has told his players not to dwell on their Manchester City defeat (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has told his players not to dwell on their Manchester City defeat (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has told his players not to dwell on their Manchester City defeat (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

The fall-out from Liverpool’s crushing 4-1 defeat against Manchester City last Sunday will continue for some time and now an even bigger crisis is looming on the horizon for Jurgen Klopp.

On current form, you would have to question whether Liverpool can make the top four in the Premier League this season and if they were to miss out on Champions League football, it would be a disaster on a grand scale.

Liverpool’s American owners run the club along very tight financial guidelines and if they didn’t have Champions League money next season, Klopp’s spending options would be hugely reduced this summer.

Their net spend since the 2019 Champions League final win has been minuscule compared to their rivals at the top of the Premier League and that is with huge TV money coming in.

Now, ahead of a summer when Klopp clearly needs to sign two or three top players to get his team back on track, they simply have to get a top four finish to make that happen and it’s far from certain.

Manchester United, Leicester, Chelsea and Tottenham are all within striking distance of a Liverpool side that has taken nine points from a possible 30 in their last ten Premier League matches.

If that form continues, West Ham and Everton will also be fancying their chances of finishing ahead of Liverpool, but I’m not massively surprised by what we have seen in the last couple of months.

I had plenty of people on my Twitter feed telling me I’d been too hasty in writing off Liverpool’s title hopes after the home defeats against Burnley and then Brighton, but it has been clear for some time that the team have lost their spark.

Even when they were winning games at the start of this season and got themselves into a good position at the top of the table in mid-December, you could see this was not the team that swept all before them last season.

You can look for reasons and at least half of their problems can be put down to the long-term injuries to centre-backs Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and now Joel Matip.

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A dejected Mohamed Salah looks on after Raheem Sterling scored Manchester City’s third goal at Anfield on Sunday. Photo: PA

A dejected Mohamed Salah looks on after Raheem Sterling scored Manchester City’s third goal at Anfield on Sunday. Photo: PA

A dejected Mohamed Salah looks on after Raheem Sterling scored Manchester City’s third goal at Anfield on Sunday. Photo: PA

We saw what happened to Manchester City last season when they lost Aymeric Laporte for an extended period and it appeared to affect the balance of their entire team.

Van Dijk is even more important for Liverpool than Laporte is for City, so it should not surprise anyone that they have been handicapped by his extended absence.

Yet Klopp will know now that the issues in his team are not just in the defensive line, as the defeat against City exposed so much more.

Alisson Becker had a nightmare on Sunday and he was not making mistakes like that when he was a part of a team playing with self-belief and displaying a winning mentality.

Then you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Roberston and they look jaded after three years of non-stop matches without a break.

Thiago Alcantara is a great player but he has not fitted into the Liverpool team so far and then the front three don’t look anywhere near where they were a year ago.

It adds up to a series of major problems for Klopp to solve and an even bigger issue may be the change in mentality in the players.

The belief they had in abundance over the last couple of years has evaporated at a pace that I never imagined would be possible.

All the momentum Liverpool built up as they won the Champions League and Premier League has gone and now Klopp has the task of getting his fallen champions back on track.

They need to show a response against Leicester on Saturday or they could easily lose that game against a team that has to be considered a serious top-four rival.

After that, they have a Champions League game against RB Leipzig in Budapest that must now be viewed as the biggest game of the season.

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Liverpool are 27 points worse off than this stage last season and have conceded almost twice as many goals (PA graphic)

Liverpool are 27 points worse off than this stage last season and have conceded almost twice as many goals (PA graphic)

Liverpool are 27 points worse off than this stage last season and have conceded almost twice as many goals (PA graphic)

The Liverpool squad that won the 2005 Champions League was nowhere near as good as this current set of players, so Klopp has to get them focused and find a winning formula all over again.

I wouldn’t fancy them against defending European champions Bayern Munich if they were to get them any time soon, but things can turn around as quickly as they have fallen away.

Get new signing Ozan Kabak in the defensive line alongside Fabinho, get Jordan Henderson back in the midfield and make good use of a returning Diogo Jota to put pressure on the front three to start firing again.

A couple of wins in the Champions League could get Liverpool going all over again in this very strange season, but it is hard to see that happening right now.

At the start of this season, I didn’t believe I’d be writing my Herald column in mid-February with Liverpool out of the title race and fearing they might not even make the top four in the Premier League.

Well, that’s where they are now and Klopp and his team need to come up with some answers very quickly.

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