Andy Robertson says Liverpool are “not in the title race” after their defeat to Brighton left them seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City having played a game more, while Jurgen Klopp declared that his side looked physically and mentally fatigued against the Seagulls. The Reds now languish in fourth and look resigned to a top-four battle, with Leicester and Manchester United, two and four points respectively, both in front of them and West Ham only two points behind in fifth.
Liverpool slipped to back-to-back home defeats in the Premier League for the first time in nine years having previously gone 68 matches unbeaten on home soil across a period of nearly four years before losing to Burnley last month.
Brighton were far better than the reigning champions at Anfield on Wednesday night and won deservedly through Steven Alzate’s second-half effort, but the south coast club might have had more goals if not for the display of Caoimhin Kelleher, who stood in well for Alisson, absent with illness, in goal.
The Irish shot-stopper was the only real positive for the insipid home team however as they served up a horrible display just as it had looked as though they were back to their best after clinching stylish away wins over Tottenham and West Ham.
They were blunt against an excellent Brighton though and took over 70 minutes to muster a shot on target, while the visitors looked a threat throughout and were stubborn defensively to lift themselves further clear of the relegation zone, which they are now 10 points above.
Liverpool next take on league leaders City in a must-win encounter on Merseyside on Sunday with their dreams of successive title triumphs all but crushed already. They know defeat at the weekend would leave them 10 points adrift with Pep Guardiola’s side boasting a game in hand and they must come away victory to stand any slim chance of retaining their crown this term.
City though represent incredibly formidable opposition having only lost twice in their 21 games this term. They have won all of their last nine, going on a 13-match winning streak across all competitions.
Since last dropping points in league, the Citizens have conceded only once in their last nine matches and boast by some distance the best defensive record in the division. They can open up a six-point gap to second-placed United by winning their extra game in addition to their lead over Liverpool and are firm title favourites.
And Liverpool left-back Robertson solemnly admitted to BT Sport after the loss to Brighton: “Any game against Man City is a big one. As this moment stands, we’re not in the title race. We are seven points behind them and they have a game in hand.
“I’m sure they’d say the same if they were potentially 10 points behind. We need to get back to the Liverpool everyone knows.”
The Scot added of his side’s defeat: “Brighton were the better team. We were hugely disappointing all over the park. You have to give the the team credit for playing well.
“They created chances, pressed us – did everything we wanted to do. We didn’t really do anything of note. With a long record of going unbeaten we’ve lost two [on the bounce at Anfield]. When you don’t show up you don’t get results.
“We prepare for every game different. It’s just not clicking. We need to find a way to get results, especially at home.
“We’re still a good team. We don’t turn into a bad team overnight. The better team won, Brighton were better at pretty much everything. They pressed us, won the ball back and created chances.
“At the moment I don’t have a real explanation for it apart from we had a really tough week and playing against an opponent like Brighton.
“Brighton is a football playing team, that’s clear, we knew that and you have to solve that with legs. There is no organisation apart from keeping the ball, constantly, which is a better solution but we passed the ball too often to their feet.
“We didn’t create enough, of course. We had a good phase the second half where we really pushed them back and they felt the intensity as well, but they came through and we didn’t come through.”
“The only thing we can do is use the things that happen and learn from them. The solution is always the players. It has been a tough week and tonight it was not enough. City are flying and we have to find solutions.”
Liverpool take on City on Sunday afternoon (4.30pm) and will hope to welcome back Alisson, Fabinho and Sadio Mane to their starting eleven, while deadline day addition Ozan Kabak could come into the match-day squad.