The goalless draw at home to leaders Manchester United was the start of a very difficult yet crucial run of fixtures for Liverpool.
Perhaps looked back on as the catalyst for getting the ball rolling and stretching out ahead of the chasing pack, or one to look back on with regret and what should have been, Liverpool started this run with United and end with Manchester City on the first weekend of February.
The highlighted run of games takes Liverpool to both the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Old Trafford (FA Cup), while equally important home games against Burnley and Brighton have to be fully capitalised upon if the Reds are to keep pace with the Manchester duo.
Its no secret that Liverpool have been dealt a poor hand with injuries this season. However, with the return of Diogo Jota potentially coming at the back end of these upcoming fixtures, the Reds can aspire to be in a strong position both on the pitch and in the league table going into February.
After dropped points against West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton, the Reds now have to take full advantage of games such as Tottenham away, where traditionally a draw wouldn’t be the worst result.
The next three weeks could well be season-defining and one where the league will start to take shape after every team has played each other at least once.
It has been an untimely drop of standards for the Reds recently, seeing them fall six points top spot with Burnley to play at home tonight. A goal, any goal at this current time, would do them the world of good.
This run of fixtures is vital for the Reds. These are the games where points need to be hoovered up consistently, with a subsequent six-match run including Everton, Leicester, Chelsea and Arsenal alongside the return of the Champions League with a last 16 tie against RB Leipzig. These next few games are the fixtures where the Reds can put themselves in the driving seat for the perceived run-in.
The front three are not firing on all cylinders, so we could do with a bit of luck at the moment. With Jota coming back and Thiago finally establishing himself in the side, there is plenty to be optimistic about during the next month.
Fabinho is perfect, absolutely bossing the centre half role at the back; and despite losing his presence in midfield, if Liverpool can find a way of keeping Joel Matip fit (easier said than done), then a midfield of Henderson, Thiago and Wijnaldum looks to be stronger than what has been available over the past few weeks.
Despite this barren run of results, people seem to forget every now and then that Liverpool have shown this season why they’re champions. They were much the better side against Tottenham last month in what was then a clash of the league’s top two.
Liverpool have also played Chelsea, Arsenal, Ajax, Atalanta, Wolves and Leicester off the park while going away to City and getting a point.
The need and urgency to capitalise comes now. Chances to pull away from the very congested pack in the top eight in the table haven’t been taken in the past few weeks, so this is the time where such slip-ups need to become few and far between.
It starts with Burnley and it ends with Manchester City coming to Anfield in early February. City’s accommodating run of fixtures before the return of the Champions League means they’re most likely going to come to Anfield right in amongst it, so Liverpool just need to make sure they’re too. The only way to do that is during this next run of crucial fixtures.