Klopp expects Liverpool to face tougher title fight next term

LONDON (AFP) – Liverpool turned the Premier League title race into a procession this season, but Jurgen Klopp expects his champions to face a much tougher fight to retain the trophy next term.

Klopp’s side powered to their first English title for 30 years with a dominant campaign that left their rivals trailing in their wake.

Liverpool wrapped up the silverware with a record seven games remaining and finished the season 18 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City.

The Reds’ remarkable run forced City to surrender the title they had won for the last two years, with Pep Guardiola’s team unable to muster the consistency required to keep pace.

With Liverpool having also won the Champions League in the 2018-19 season and the Club World Cup last December, some pundits believe the Anfield club are primed for a golden era of dominance.

All the pieces are in place for Liverpool to win consecutive titles for the first time since 1984, with Klopp signed to a long-term contract and key stars Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson all in their primes.

Liverpool also have a cadre of emerging youngsters capable of bolstering Klopp’s squad next season. But the German insisted Liverpool will take nothing for granted when the 2020-21 campaign kicks off because he expects a renewed push from City and stronger challenges from Manchester United and Chelsea.

“Whatever people say, it will not be important for next season because for sure we both have to be ready,” Klopp said.

“We see United coming up. People thought they had no chance but we see with one or two players how good they are and how good they can be, and for sure they will not be worse next season, and now there is Chelsea as well.

“It will not be about City and us. For the last two years pretty much the top of the table was City and us, and City for four or five years before that.”

City clearly have the pedigree to take back the title.

They set a 100-point Premier League record total in 2018 that Liverpool were unable to match this season and pipped Klopp’s men to the title again in 2019.

Guardiola’s side could yet underline their enduring class by ending the campaign as Champions League winners.

City were undeniably inconsistent this season, with defensive frailties exposed after failing to replace Vincent Kompany and losing Aymeric Laporte to injury for long periods.

Long-serving Spanish midfielder David Silva will leave this summer, but Phil Foden’s development gives Guardiola a potential replacement.

Klopp does not expect a drop-off from City, who made a point about their ability to compete with Liverpool when they crushed them 4-0 in the Reds’ first game after clinching the title.

“I am very positive about my team but I cannot deny Manchester City are really good. That was always the case, and I cannot see the end of anything for Manchester City,” he said.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have huge potential and the additions of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech should add potency to their attack.

“Chelsea have incredible guys there in the squad and extra now with (new signings) Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner,” Guardiola said.