LONDON (AFP) – Liverpool can move within touching distance of the Premier League title when the runaway leaders face Everton early tomorrow (2am Brunei time), while the relegation battle will be in the spotlight in the first full weekend of top-flight action since the coronavirus outbreak.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will play for the first time since the Premier League was suspended in March over the COVID-19 pandemic as the title chasers make the short trip to Merseyside rivals Everton.
Liverpool, 22 points clear of second placed Manchester City, need two wins from their remaining nine games to end their 30-year wait to be crowned English champions.
If the Reds beat Everton, they can wrap up the title with another victory against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.
Klopp’s men have not been in action for 106 days and the Liverpool boss is relieved to return after talk the season might be declared null and void, which would have deprived his team of the title their superb season deserves.
Liverpool had been on course to become the first English champions to be crowned in March after recording 27 wins from 29 matches.
However, Liverpool’s inevitable title will now come with an asterisk according to some pundits, who claim the Premier League’s new normal of matches behind closed doors with more substitutes allowed has taken the shine off the leaders’ achievements.
Klopp doesn’t care about those critics and, on the eve of Liverpool’s return, the German hit back.
“Now I have had a lot of time to read. I had to Google the word ‘asterisk’. I only knew the word from a comic!” Klopp said.
“This is the most difficult year and season to become champions, 100 per cent. It is an interrupted season, like has never happened before.
“Whoever will be champions, it will be historic because it is a year that we will never forget.
“Give us an asterisk, yes. We cannot do a lot of things that we usually can do but in this specific case at least we can say this is really special.
“That’s why we enjoy the little asterisk there.”
Liverpool’s derby clash comes at the conclusion of a busy weekend that confirms the Premier League is back in full swing.
Klopp is delighted his side have the chance to win the title at Anfield, after various proposals were discussed as to how the campaign would be decided had the Premier League not been able to resume.
The idea of declaring the season null and void gained little support and Klopp was relieved when that was taken off the table.
“I became worried in the moment when people started talking about null and void the season because I was like ‘wow’, I felt it physically because that would have been really, really, really hard,” Klopp said.
Had the Premier League followed the example of some other leagues around Europe by ending the season on a points-per-game basis, Liverpool would already be champions.
But Klopp is glad to have the opportunity to win it on the pitch, even if no fans will be in the stadium to witness the historic moment.
“We don’t expect to get it as a present so we did not want it to happen on points-per-game (PPG). We were really happy when it was decided we could play again,” he said.
“There were moments, you know how long the discussions were, people brought it up (null and void) from time to time for different reasons. When that was off the table I felt quite relieved.
“Now we are here. If they had done PPG and we could not have played we would probably be champions. Now we aren’t, we have to play for it,” he added.