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This season will only be considered a success if Pool become champions, says Klopp

 

By David Charlesworth

Jurgen Klopp believes the expectation placed upon Liverpool following their finest ever start to a Premier League season means only becoming champions will qualify as a success.

Despite eight wins and three draws in their opening 11 matches, Liverpool sit only third as defending champions Manchester City and Chelsea have emulated the Reds' unbeaten start.

The Merseysiders underlined their title challenge in the early part of the campaign with some fluent displays although a difficult run of fixtures has since stalled their progress.

Liverpool suffered a surprise Champions League defeat to Red Star Belgrade in midweek and Klopp is looking for some resiliency when they return to domestic action against Fulham tomorrow.

"The season so far, points-wise in the Premier League, has been really successful," the German said. "But it doesn't really feel like that because there are two reasons in comparison with last year: free-flowing football in a few games and Man City and maybe Chelsea and a few others have a very good season as well.

"It feels a bit like this season can only be a success if we become champions - in a year our competitors are the champions of last year, the champions of two years ago, a more refreshed Arsenal and a more experienced Tottenham and Manchester United.

"That's a really tough job but we have no problem with that.

"We have to build on our situation, we have to get better, to get more confidence out of the season.

"It's all okay but the game on Tuesday was a rather massive knock which was not expected and now we have to react in the right way."

Midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita are both in line for a return at Anfield following their respective hamstring injuries.

Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains on the treatment table among players in the middle of the park and Klopp admitted the availability of Henderson and Keita leaves him with tough decisions to make.

"It's good to have them back and it's probably the first time that all midfield players, apart from Ox, are available," Klopp said.

"It's another thing to do, making decisions about who starts with who. It's all about fitness levels and form, shape and then we will see."

Fulham made an encouraging start following promotion from the Championship but have slid to the foot of the table after a miserable run of five consecutive defeats.

Klopp, though, bristled at suggestions Liverpool can put their visitors to the sword.

He said: "I would be an idiot if I talked about goal difference before that game. This is a really strange situation for Fulham, I can imagine how they feel.

"Their football is good, a lot of things are really good, they caused City a lot of problems (in a 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat).

"This game is a big challenge for all of us. If somebody goes there and expects an easy game then please stay at home. It will not be, it's a tough job."

Slavisa Jokanovic, meanwhile, has accused his Fulham players of lacking fight and effort.

He remains under intense pressure after their worst result of a disappointing start to 2018-19 came in Monday's 1-0 defeat by Huddersfield, since when club coach Scott Parker has been linked with his position.

While Jokanovic dismissed those reports as "speculation" he recognises his team need to vastly improve if they are to survive, unexpectedly criticising them and demanding they do not throw away in a matter of months the Premier League status that took years to secure.

"We chose an ugly way to lose the game," he said. "You must be proud, competitive and fight at the last moment.

"We are not showing this quality or effort, we must wake up and when we lose we must know how we lost; we cannot sell our skin so cheap."

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