Expected to push on in an ‘easier’ run after their fast start, the Reds have had a good run of results, albeit with a couple of blips along the way.
Jurgen Klopp’s men registered three victories on the trot, with expected home wins against West Brom (2-1) and Watford (6-1) sandwiching a thrilling 4-2 victory at bogey ground Selhurst Park, gaining two more valuable points than predicted. However, a wasteful Liverpool side dropped two predicted points at St. Mary’s as they could not break down Southampton and had to settle for a scoreless draw, before rounding up November with a routine-looking and expected win over Sunderland at Anfield with two late goals.
December began with an unexpected defeat against Bournemouth, with Liverpool getting Dortmund-ed at Dean Court. After absolutely dominating the first half and racing to a two-goal lead, James Milner conceded a penalty when he fouled Bournemouth substitute Ryan Fraser. Emre Can then restored the Reds’ two-goal cushion with a fine effort, before all hell broke loose. Fraser pulled another back with a shot goalkeeper Loris Karius should have saved, before the Cherries’ winger set up Steve Cook for the equaliser. As Klopp looked to swallow his pride and settle for a point, Karius made a mess of a shot from Bournemouth’s short corner, only to let in Nathan Are to fumble home their winner.
In the very next game, Karius was at fault for West Ham’s first equaliser as the Reds settled for a home point as predicted. Klopp’s men managed to round off this manageable run of games with a comfortable, dominant and satisfying 3-0 away victory over Middlesborough.
The next set of fixtures over the busy festive schedule and into 2017 is definitely more challenging than the previous run, still perhaps looking more manageable than the opening games.
First up is a feisty Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park, which Klopp’s side dominated at Anfield last season. The Reds should be able to sneak a win here, so long as the defence stay cool on the night and minimise their mistakes. Two home fixtures await, first against Stoke City and then to fellow contenders Manchester City. Klopp’s men should prevail over Joe Allen’s new side but might have to settle for a point against City, with key men Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Aguero returning for their respective sides.
The visit to Sunderland marks the start of 2017, and the Reds should be able to secure victory in this one earlier than the reverse fixture in the above previous set of games. Following which is Old Trafford, with Manchester United likely to be rejuvenated then and unlikely to be parking the Mourinho bus again. Liverpool need to win this game if they are to harbour any real hopes of the title come April/May, and should have enough within them to nick the win they should have secured at Anfield in October. The Reds round off the month with the visit of Swansea City, and Klopp will ensure victory against Bob Bradley’s men is secured much more convincingly than this season’s reverse fixture.
February’s first fixture could be a defining one in the title race, with Chelsea visiting Anfield. With the Blues’ record at Anfield, Klopp’s side could do well just to secure a point. The KC Stadium is the last ground in this set of fixtures for the Reds, and they should secure the league double over Hull City.
Liverpool should, at best, secure another 20 points from a possible 24, for a total of 54 points (that’d be 4 points clear of reigning champions Leicester at this stage last season, 2 behind of championship-winning Chelsea in 2014/15 and 1 behind of Arsenal, in that 2013/14)
Although a defeat or two might be on the cards here – with the fatigue of the cramped festive period likely to take its toll on the team and injuries – the Reds should, minimally secure 16 points, bringing up their total to 50 points (which would be fourth, three points ahead of that 2013/14 Liverpool side, second ahead of City by a point in 2014/15 and joint top with Leicester last season).
Will Klopp’s side survive the hectic festive period to stay in contention?
These predictions will be reviewed at the end of this third run of fixtures in the preview of the Reds’ penultimate set of games.