Premier League: A point apart, title dash on final day
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said it was “not likely but possible” that his team could pip Manchester City to the Premier League title in Sunday’s final round of games after Joel Matip’s stooping header gave the Reds a 2-1 win at Southampton on Tuesday.
The victory left Klopp’s side with 89 points, one behind Pep Guardiola’s City with one game left to play for both teams.
Liverpool would need City to fail to beat Aston Villa at home on Sunday while winning their own game against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield.
Villa, managed by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, play relegation-threatened Burnley on Thursday before heading to the Etihad Stadium to face Guardiola’s side.
“It is possible, not likely but possible. That is enough,” said Klopp, who won the Premier League in 2020 but could see City claim a fourth title in five years.
“Of course it is unlikely because City play at home against Aston Villa, who play only on Thursday. It will be tough against Burnley, they fight for survival,” said Klopp.
“But it is football. I think the time when City became champion (in 2019) it was because of 11 millimetres,” he added, referring to John Stones’ clearance off the line for City against Liverpool that season.
Klopp said he was expecting a raucous atmosphere at Anfield on the final day.
“If someone wants us to be champion then we have to win first and Aston Villa need to get a point at City.
“We all know. We never gave up. We’ll give it a try. It’s our home game, last home game of season. The atmosphere will be outstanding. We’ll try to use it. We have to do our job. Football is a tricky game sometimes. Aston Villa play on Thursday and then Sunday. We’ll see but you have to focus on yourselves.”
Against Southampton, Klopp changed nine of the team which beat Chelsea on penalties in the FA Cup final on Saturday with Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah injured but several others rested.
Klopp’s choice was looking questionable when Southampton took a 13th-minute lead through a wonderful Nathan Redmond strike after the winger had cut in from the left flank. Roberto Firmino, who led the line in the absence of Sadio Mane, had a header ruled out for offside as the visitors sought a quick way back into the game.
Liverpool, who face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 28, drew level in the 27th minute with Takumi Minamino, who spent a loan spell with Southampton last season, firing a fierce shot in at the near post.
The goal had taken the wind out of Southampton’s sails and it was no surprise when Liverpool secured the three points after FA Cup hero Kostas Tsimikas’s corner was headed in by Matip in the 67th minute.
James Milner, the 36-year-old utility player who was given a rare start, praised the back-up players for the way they took on the game. “The guys are incredible. The guys who may not have played as much but you see it in training every day,” the level they put in and you can see it when they need to step up,” he said.
(Written with inputs from Reuters)