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Why Liverpool’s next 5 games will decide their season

Premier League leaders Liverpool are in contention for four trophies at the midway point of the 2023/24 campaign.

In addition to sitting atop the league standings, the Reds secured a top-place finish in their Europa League group and are on the brink of reaching the League Cup final.

Now it’s up to Jurgen Klopp to set his priorities amid a packed fixture schedule as we look at Liverpool’s five upcoming matches that could determine the course of their season.

Bournemouth (Premier League) – Sunday, January 21

Liverpool’s outstanding 13-game unbeaten Premier League run (W8, D5), bookended by a 4-2 demolition of Newcastle United on New Year’s Day, has propelled them to the top of the table.

However, reigning holders Manchester City have picked up pace, closing the gap to only two points with a come-from-behind 3-2 win at St James’ Park last week.

Any slip-up could prove costly in the fiercely-contested title battle, and Klopp’s high-flying side can’t afford to underestimate resurgente Bournemouth.

 Though the Reds are heavily fancied to take three points at the Vitality Stadium, the Cherries’ sterling four-game unbeaten home league streak (W3, D1) demands a cautious approach from the visitors. 

Fulham (Carabao Cup) – Wednesday, January 24

Despite trailing at half-time, Liverpool won the first leg of their League Cup semi-final tie against Fulham 2-1 to put one foot in the grand final.

With half of the work done at Anfield, the Reds head to Craven Cottage confident of holding the Cottagers winless in London for the sixth time on the trot.

Liverpool’s last defeat at this stadium dates back to 2011, suggesting their appearance in the title-deciding fixture should be a mere formality. 

The nine-time League Cup winners last won the competition in 2021/22, and with Middlesbrough on the verge of crashing Chelsea out from the other semi-final tie, they are in a decent position to hit a ten-title landmark.

Norwich City (FA Cup) – Sunday, January 28

Klopp’s competitive nature compels him to push for every trophy available, but in this particular case, it might not be in Liverpool’s best interest. 

His side went to great lengths to set up this tie as a late blitz catapulted them to a 2-0 win against fellow Premier League title rivals Arsenal in the previous round. 

But with several first-team stars, including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, out injured and Mohamed Salah facing a potentially lengthy spell on the sidelines, sacrificing cup competitions could be wise.

The Reds are odds-on favourites to dispatch second-tier Norwich City here, but piling more fixtures on an already-tight schedule might prove counterproductive. 

Chelsea (Premier League) – Wednesday, January 31

Despite Chelsea’s ever-present strugglers under the new ownership, the Blues are well-versed in keeping Liverpool away from the win column, becoming a thorn in Klopp’s side. 

An enthralling 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge marked the Reds’ seventh consecutive failed attempt to beat the London outfit in regulation time (D6, L1).

Fourteen wins from 16 competitive outings at Anfield this season implies their barren run in this match-up could end at the end of January.

However, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have enjoyed a noticeable upturn in form with three consecutive Premier League victories. 

It means this won’t be a walk in the park for Liverpool, even though the teams’ position in the standings may suggest otherwise.

Arsenal (Premier League) – Sunday, February 4

Had this contest taken place at the end of 2023, it would’ve been a top-table six-pointer, but Arsenal’s significant drop-off has seen them lose ground on Liverpool.

Back-to-back defeats in the Premier League London derbies at the tail-end of the last calendar year diminished the Gunners’ title chances, helping the Reds build a five-point buffer.

Liverpool added insult to injury in the abovementioned FA Cup tie in the first week of January, condemning Arsenal to their worst seven-game stretch under Mikel Arteta (W1, D2, L4).

But it’s worth noting Klopp’s troops have failed to beat the Londoners in their last three top-flight duels (D2, L1), so this mouth-watering showdown could go either way.

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