Dubai: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for Southampton after their Premier League clash at Anfield. Yes, that is the Premier League match that saw the Reds cruise to a 4-0 win and open up a 22-point gap in the league standings over Manchester City.
Such are the standards set at Anfield these days that — despite the scoreline — Klopp was left impressed that a side managed to keep the score down to four against his record-breaking animal of a team.
“First and foremost, I really have to say, wow, Southampton — what a team that is,” said Klopp after a Mo Salah double helped his unbeaten side to their 24th win in 25 games in the league this season. “Their defence is really good and then their counter attacks are exceptional. How they are supported by the midfield and the wingers, is just exceptional.”
Exception is just one of the superlatives more fitting to the Reds this season. A befuddling 22 points is the biggest advantage any leader has had in English top-flight history — that’s the whole history of the league going back to 1889, not just the Premier League, which began in 1992.
With the league title race now a procession and Liverpool claiming their first title in 30 years, it is looking increasingly likely that the Premier League will have its second batch of invincibles, with the Reds looking unbeatable with only 13 games left.
That is one of the tantalising chapters remaining for Liverpool this season. The other is the possibility of defending their Champions League title and doing the domestic and European double (they are already world champions thanks to their Club World Cup triumph in Doha in November).
Statistically, Liverpool still require seven more wins to wrap up the Premier League, but Pep Guardiola and soon-to-be-usurped defending champions City will already have one eye on regrouping in the summer and going again with a clean slate for the 2020-21 campaign.
City are in the final of the League Cup, still in contention for the FA Cup — both trophies they won last season — but lifting both those pieces of silverware again would pale in comparison to a ever-elusive success in the Champions League.
Slight snag: Real Madrid are up next in the last 16 and the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona will all fancy their chances when the tournament gets to the business end.
So, as Guardiola said himself: “Last year was an extraordinary one for us but people say, ‘But you didn’t win the Champions League’.
“That is why I will be judged, if we don’t win it in my final period here, that I will be a failure here. I know that.”
No pressure, Pep ...