This has been a costly week for Liverpool, in more ways than one.
On a weekend when Tottenham, Chelsea and both the Manchester clubs failed to record victories, the Reds were unable to take advantage.
Three points at Fulham would have taken them top of the Premier League, but in the end Jurgen Klopp’s side had to settle for one.
Although in fairness, they probably would have settled for that at half-time, given the paucity of their first-half performance at Craven Cottage.
In the end it was a late Mo Salah penalty, his 13th goal of the season, which got the champions out of jail. They had trailed to Bobby Decordova-Reid’s first-half strike, and for long periods had looked sluggish and distracted in the west London rain.
Indeed, had it not been for the sharpness of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, back after a three-game absence, they may have been dead and buried by the interval.
“We could have lost it in the first 30 minutes,” Klopp admitted afterwards. “In the next 60 we could have won it.”
As it is, their away-day blues continue. Liverpool have now won just one of six league games on their travels this season, and even that came after their opponents, Chelsea, were reduced to 10 men before half-time. Since losing at Watford at the end of February, the Merseysiders have won just three of 11 Premier League fixtures away from Anfield.
The dropped points are piling up – that’s 11 now, if you’re counting – but just as concerning to Klopp will be the injury situation.
Because it’s getting worse by the day.
Kostas Tsimikas and Diogo Jota are the latest names added to the list, both having suffered knee problems during Wednesday’s Champions League draw away to FC Midtjylland. Six to eight weeks is the prognosis – a period which could encompass as many as a dozen games in all competitions.
Jota’s absence will be particularly felt – although with Tsimikas sidelined, Andy Robertson’s Christmas workload just got a whole lot bigger. The Portugal forward has been in dazzling form since his summer arrival from Wolves, and many will question the wisdom of putting Jota through 90 minutes against Midtjylland, given the game had little riding on it except for prize money. Certainly, his team selection in Denmark raised eyebrows.
Joel Matip was rested entirely, in fairness, yet still broke down at the weekend. The Cameroon international lasted just 45 minutes against Fulham before being substituted. “A back spasm,” said Klopp. Matip has a chance for Wednesday’s top-of-the-table clash with Tottenham, he added, but Liverpool can ill-afford to take risks with their one remaining specialist senior centre-back.
They finished here with two midfielders in the heart of their defence, Jordan Henderson moving back alongside Fabinho. Both, to their credit, performed admirably, as did Takumi Minamino, Matip’s half-time replacement, who was pressed into action in midfield.
That’s the knock-on effect of all these defensive injuries, you see; the thinning of midfield options. Gini Wijnaldum is still standing, but James Milner is still absent, Thiago Alcantara hasn’t been seen in nearly two months and Naby Keita was missing again this weekend. “A fitness issue,” say the club. The Guinea international is only just back from a hamstring problem, and is still searching for some good fortune, more than two years after arriving on Merseyside.
Klopp at least knows he can count on Curtis Jones, the teenager having been Liverpool’s brightest spark on Sunday. At 19, the young Scouser has the tools to go to the very top. He came as close as anyone to clinching all three points against Fulham.
And it was a welcome sight to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain named in the matchday squad for the first time all season, too. The England man was not called upon as it happened, but he will be in the coming weeks, for sure. Liverpool need all the help they can get.
Wednesday should be a hell of a test. Tottenham may have dropped points themselves on Sunday, throwing away a half-time lead to draw at Crystal Palace, but they will arrive at Anfield confident, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min ready to expose any frailties Liverpool may have in their backline. Whoever the Reds field in their defence, whether it’s Matip, Henderson or Klopp himself, they’ll need to be on guard.
It should be a cracker, mind. Anfield, the floodlights, fans back in the stadium - something to warm the cold winter night.
He’ll want three points, no doubt, but as much as anything, Klopp will hope his side comes through it in one piece.
They’re still standing, Liverpool, but only just.