With Manchester City playing in the FA Cup this weekend, Sunday’s trip to Craven Cottage is a superb opportunity for the Reds to put the heat on in the title race.
A win would move Liverpool two points clear and, with Fulham still one of the league’s whipping boys, the last match before the international break could be a great time to make ground on City’s goal difference.
The Cottagers have lost ten of the last 11 and are on a six-game losing run. Jurgen Klopp’s side could make it a magnificent seven.
If they do, they’ll certainly want to keep going until the final whistle. As Liverpool (and Barcelona) found on Wednesday, there are goals to be had late in games, and that’s especially the case against Fulham.
This season, Fulham have conceded around a quarter of their goals from the 76th minute onwards. As luck would have it, Liverpool have scored around a quarter of theirs in this period of the match as well.
Liverpool’s three-pronged attack gets plenty of praise when they’re firing on all cylinders, but it’s arguably the hard times where the trio prove their worth.
Having three such good forwards means that, more often than not, at least one will be on form. When Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino are going through a rough patch, Sadio Mane can step up, as he has been doing in the past couple of months.
Klopp is, as ever, downplaying the hype around the match.
“We don’t think about the situation in the table or whatever,” he has said, “we are only focused on our situation.
“But we know how difficult it is – we only have to take our game against Fulham at home [earlier in the season]: we needed a genius moment from [Alisson], Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and Mo [Salah] to win that game.”
There are reasons to be wary of Fulham, to be fair. There have been periods where Aleksandar Mitrovic has been very threatening to opponents. Ryan Sessegnon and Andre Schurrle are both strong attacking talents too, although Schurrle seems to struggle to provide for his teammates, with six goals but no assists this season.
Fulham have the worst goal difference in the league, though, having conceded 11 goals more than the next worst defence (68). However, Klopp is of the opinion that they’re a different proposition under caretaker manager Scott Parker.
“It is difficult, but we have to see it as an opportunity because it is the next game we play and a very important one,” Klopp continued. “Fulham have had a difficult season obviously, but since Scott [Parker] is in you can see the change, it is really kind of a breath of fresh air.
“They lost the two games against Chelsea, which is a difficult one for all teams in the league obviously, and Leicester with a new manager there. But they were pretty impressive.
“That’s all in our books, that’s all we know of that and now we have to make sure that we are really spot on from the first second and hopefully we can win that game.”
Being spot on from the first second isn’t something that the Reds have been doing too much of throughout this season, really. Only ten per cent of Liverpool’s goals have come in the first 15 minutes of matches, a rate that only Cardiff, Chelsea and Crystal Palace fare worse at.
In fairness, Klopp’s side also rarely concede in these opening exchanges, with only seven per cent of the goals they concede featuring in this first quarter-hour of matches.
It would be good to see some urgency at the beginning of the game as the Reds seek to regain top spot for the international break.
*odds subject to change
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by Tom Bodell