There wasn’t much for Liverpool supporters to dwell on following a largely forgettable 90 minutes in the Champions League on Tuesday.
But as the Anfield faithful drifted away into the smoky Bonfire Night, they did so having witnessed one reassuring, recurring aspect ofJurgen Klopp’sside.
Once again, they held their nerve.
The 2-1 win over Genk wasn’t prettybut it underlined the resolve and improved game management of thisLiverpoolside. They know what needs doing and are learning how to cope.
Seven of Liverpool’s last 10 wins have seen them triumph by the slenderest of margins, while one of the others was the penalty shoot-out victory against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup.
And against Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, they did so having conceded first.
Of course, that run cannot go on forever. For the sake of their own psychological – and, indeed, physical – well-being, it would be much preferable if Liverpool can start putting games to bed a long time before the final whistle.
But it demonstrates that Klopp’s side are battle-hardened.
Click to playTap to play
They know that when the margins are tight, where one mistake either way can drastically change the outcome, they can see the job through.
Which brings us neatly to Sunday and the titanic showdown against Manchester City.
For all the excitement over a possible goalfest, the last Anfield meeting between the teams is perhaps more instructive.
City, wary of three previous successive away defeats to Liverpool under Pep Guardiola, locked down the defense , scrapped it out in midfield and were far happier with the goalless draw. Only a late penalty miss prevented them claiming all three points.
Guardiola is no doubt considering the same approach again in the knowledge defeat would leave the champions a whopping nine points adrift of Klopp’s side.
Like any game between leading rivals, the small details will be crucial. And **** could hold an edge in a key area.
City’s win against Southampton was their first by a single goal in the Premier League this season.
Indeed, it was only the second time since December 2017 they have come from behind to win a top-flight game.
To be fair, such has City’s domination of the domestic game been in recent years, they haven’t often been in arrears.
And during the second half of last season, they racked up a succession of narrow wins to keep Liverpool’s title challenge at bay.
That was then, though, and this is now.
City, not helped by injuries to integral players, appear more vulnerable mentally, more unsure after the defeats to Norwich City and, more recently, Wolverhampton Wanderers .
Must-read Liverpool FC news
The mask of invincibility has slipped. Or, at least for the time being, has seemingly been directed down the other end of the M 62. And, given his recent utterances, Guardiola knows it.
If Liverpool get their noses in front on Sunday, it will prompt a scenario with which they have dealt admirably in recent times – and City have not. However, the ultimate test for Klopp and his players is still to come.
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings