Liverpool have no option but to come out swinging against leaders Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday night to reverse a slide that has robbed them of their early season sparkle.
Jurgen Klopp’s men ended 2016 as the closest challengers to Antonio Conte’s pacesetters, but a dismal January has seen the Reds win just once in eight fixtures across all competitions, exiting two tournaments in the process.
The league now commands all attention for the Merseysiders, who will want to make the title tilt more inclusive by sending a defeated Chelsea back to Stamford Bridge.
Another disappointment would be damaging for Liverpool given the context of their month and they’ll start looking below themselves in concern over a Champions League place rather than above themselves ambitiously.
Adam Lallana, the recently crowned England Player of the Year, should return to the starting line-up after sustaining a deep cut on his leg that required stitches against Southampton.
Nathaniel Clyne, however, is attempting to push past abdominal pain to feature. "It's difficult - we would love to force it but we can't so we have to wait," Klopp explained of the right-back's situation.
"Yesterday, he made a running session with [Andreas] Kornmayer, so it's about adapting more and more to the pain level he obviously has.
"If there's a risk to make it worse then we cannot take the risk, because he's already out for [what] feels like four weeks, maybe it was one or two.
"It's already quite a period so we have to see."
A massive lift for Liverpool is the return of Sadio Mane from the Africa Cup of Nations. The Senegal ace arrived back in the city late on Monday night and reported to Melwood the next morning. He will be assessed on a physical as well as emotional level after enduring extra time and then missing the decisive penalty as his country exited the showpiece against Cameroon at the quarter-final stage.
"In this moment, I have no idea – I have to look into his eyes and see whatever is possible with him and then make a decision,” Klopp revealed at Melwood while the player was on a private jet from Gabon.
Young midfielder Ovie Ejaria, meanwhile, is suffering from ruptured syndesmosis.
Neither side have any suspension concerns, but with the match falling on transfer deadline day and the futures of Branislav Ivanovic and Asmir Begovic undecided, the duo could sit out the encounter for the Blues.
LIVERPOOL POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
With Mane reporting to Melwood on Tuesday morning, Klopp's hand has ultimately been boosted, but to what extent? A spot among the substitutes seems likely for the influential 24-year-old. Having not been able to field the speedster together with Philippe Coutinho, Lallana and Roberto Firmino since the 6-1 demolition of Watford in November, any contribution from Mane will be a welcome bonus.
Should Clyne not be fit enough to start, teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold will deputise as he did in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United.
CHELSEA TEAM NEWS
Klopp's assertion that Chelsea are playing "football like the stars from the sky" is apt - they are resolute, refined and limit chances against them while maximising their own opportunities.
Conte has taken just 22 games to pick up 55 points in the Premier League; a joint-record shared with Jose Mourinho - his predecessor at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham, who broke their 13-match winning run at the start of January, illustrated Chelsea can be frustrated if their wing-backs are effectively nullified.
And the visitors are wary of being Liverpool's punching bag at Anfield, given the Reds suffered three defeats in the space of a week on their own turf.
"It's a very tough game for us because their focus will be very high,” Conte said.
“After three defeats you are very angry, and we must know this. We have to play our football with good intensity and then we will see what happens.”
One of Chelsea's key strengths has been the availability of their first-choice 11, much like Leicester's title charge last season. Conte has had no major selection issues to solve and has altered his starting XI the least in the division. “They play the same team nearly all the time,” observed Klopp. “I don’t think there are a lot of changes, especially in the Premier League.”
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Liverpool will be looking to defeat Chelsea both home and away in the same Premier League season for the first time since 2011-12.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four Premier League trips to Anfield (W2 D2 L0), last losing there in May 2012.
Liverpool have picked up one point in the three Premier League games that Sadio Mane has missed this season
Diego Costa has scored in 15 of his last 21 Premier League matches
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
Kick off is at 20:00 and the game will be televised live on BT Sport.