Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher believes Jurgen Klopp’s side can make the most of their European absence this season to make a top-four charge.
Barring a dismal performance at Burnley, the Reds have been impressive so far in their first full Premier League campaign under the German, beating Chelsea and Arsenal away and drawing at Tottenham.
They have ten points from five games and were deserving of Friday’s 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge, condemning Antonio Conte to his first defeat as Blues boss.
Dejan Lovren opened the scoring with his first league goal for the club in 54 appearances, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead with a 30-yard stunner in the second half.
Diego Costa pulled one back shortly after the hour, bundling home Nemanja Matic’s low cross, but the Reds held on.
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Carragher, who called the Sports Bar in April after Liverpool’s Europa League victory over Dortmund, rang talkSPORT’s post-match phone-in show to have his say.
The defender-turned-pundit said: “If you ask me if I think Liverpool can win the league, I would probably say no.
“This season, having no Europeean football [to contend with] will have a massive impact – and for Chelsea as well.
“The way Liverpool play with the high intensity, we’ve all questioned whether they can do that for the full season, but you certainly have a better chance of doing it if you haven’t got many midweek games. That will be a massive help for Klopp and Liverpool going forward.
“I still don’t think Liverpool will win the league but they have a great chance of finishing in the top four and who knows it could be easier with the extra rest the players will have.”
With the likes of Conte, Guardiola and Jose Mourinho joining the likes of Klopp, Arsene Wenger, Mauricio Pochettino and Claudio Ranieri in the Premier League, a finish in the Champions League places remains a tough ask for the Merseysiders.
“I think they have a very good chance,” Carragher insisted.
“The way they have started they have done very well. Last season a lot of people said maybe there’s not much difference [with Klopp], but for one it wasn’t Klopp’s squad and [secondly] they had that many games with doing well in the cups, you don’t train properly and he had no chance because of so many games and it takes its toll in the end.
“He got to two cup finals in the end and I think he did a very good job. Of course, this season he will be judged more harshly as the honeymoon period is over and he will certainly be judged at the end of the season.”
“Who will do well in the cups, fixture backlogs for other sides and you would hope less games means less injuries that could make the difference.
“When Liverpool nearly won the league they didn’t have the best team but had the best player in Luis Suarez, but they got knocked out of the cups early – which I hope doesn’t happen.
“For Liverpool and Klopp the target is to try and get top four and if you get to February/March and you’re in and around there, go for it.”
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Liverpool provided a shock result as they made it successive league victories at Stamford Bridge.
After a disappointing title defence last season, Chelsea are expected to compete for titles once again under the management of former Juventus chief Conte.
But Carragher believes their main error was approaching the clash ‘like an away side’.
The ex-England international added: “Before the game, Conte did an interview and he was saying how it was such a bad time to play Liverpool, which I thought was a strange comment, and Matic said the same.
“To me, listening to those comments and watching the first half, Chelsea must have been obsessed with stopping Liverpool they forgot about their own game.
“Conte said they deliberately set up like that because Liverpool cause you so many problems. On paper you would probably pick Chelsea, being at home, but it felt like they played like an away side and I couldn’t get my head around it.”
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