London (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp admits he is frustrated that the high expectations surrounding Liverpool’s Premier League title bid have overshadowed their strong start to the season.
Klopp’s third-placed side have won eight of their 11 matches in an unbeaten opening to the league campaign.
But despite their position among the leading title contenders, Liverpool have endured criticism of late after some erratic displays both domestically and in the Champions League.
A midweek loss at Red Star Belgrade was especially underwhelming, but Reds boss Klopp believes the doubters are wrong to question his team.
Aware that champions Manchester City and in-form Chelsea — both also unbeaten in the league — have garnered more praise than Liverpool, Klopp launched a passionate defence of his side on Friday, claiming only winning the title for the first time since 1990 will be enough to silence the critics.
“The season so far-wise, points-wise in the Premier League, has been really successful,” Klopp told reporters.
“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 play a very good season as well.
“It feels a bit like this season can only be a success if we become champions.
“Our competitors are the champions of last year (Manchester City), the champions of two years ago (Chelsea), 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 go for everything. We have to build on our situation, we have to get better, to get more confidence out of the season.”
– ‘Not easy game’ –
Klopp admitted the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Red Star Belgrade “was a rather massive knock which was not expected”.
“Now we have to react for us in the right way, not only on Sunday, but in general.”
Fulham head to Anfield on Sunday having slid to the foot of the table after a miserable run of five consecutive defeats.
But Klopp bristled at suggestions Liverpool should thrash the west Londoners.
“I would be really an idiot – a few people think I am but not that much – if I would talk about any goal difference before that game,” Klopp said.
“This is a really strange situation for Fulham, I can really imagine how they feel. Their football is good, they caused (Manchester) City a lot of problems.
“You will never score a goal against a team like Fulham if you go to win the game with the wrong attitude and think about scoring, scoring, scoring. 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 to do.”
Liverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita are both in line for a return to action following their respective hamstring injuries.