It’s the best programme on television, and Jurgen Klopp will now be able to enjoy it with his feet up and a big smile on his face.
Monday Night Football will see Tottenham and Manchester City do battle at Wembley, with the objective for both sides simple.
Keep pace with Liverpool.
The Reds sit, temporarily at least, top of the Premier League table after extending their unbeaten start to the season to 10 games. Cardiff City, durable, committed but entirely second-best, were Anfield’s latest victim.
It wasn’t the prettiest – it was never likely to be against a Neil Warnock side, in truth – but Klopp’s men continue to get the job done, and in the end this one was comfortable.
Mohamed Salah led the way with a goal and two assists, while Sadio Mane bagged a brace of his own. Xherdan Shaqiri’s first Reds goal made it a perfect afternoon, after Callum Paterson’s goal for the visitors had briefly halved the deficit to 2-1. It was also the first league goal Liverpool have conceded at home in 918 minutes, a run which stretched all the way back to February.
No drama, Liverpool remain in a strong position, three clear at the top ahead of a testing trip to the capital for City, their fellow pace-setters. How Klopp would love Spurs to bring their A-game to that contest.
For now, though, he can reflect on his own side, and their ability to keep moving forwards. This was their third win since the international break, and confidence is growing. Their forwards are scoring, their defence, one slip here aside, are shining and their midfield, with Fabinho again impressive, does a bit of everything. They’re turning into some team.
How pleasing it will be to see the goals return, too. That’s eight in the space of three days now; for all the talk of Liverpool’s front three struggling for form this season, it is worth noting that they have combined more goals in the club’s opening 14 games of this season (18) than they did last term. Salah and Mane, with seven each, are battling it out for top dog status.
It took just 10 minutes for Salah to strike here, sharp as ever in the box to finish after Cardiff had thwarted both Mane and Gini Wijnaldum. The Egyptian now has 33 in his last 35 Anfield appearances, and 22 in his last 20.
Having come to frustrate, the Bluebirds’ gameplan had been undone almost immediately. The half-time stats made for interesting reading. Liverpool enjoyed 85 per cent possession (they finished the game with a slightly more modest 80 per cent) but failed to add to their lead. Their dominance was summed up by the fact that Bruno Ecule Manga, the Cardiff right-back, failed to complete a single pass in the opening 45 minutes and that three other players managed just one each.
Still, this was not vintage Liverpool, though Mane’s finish for 2-0, hammered home left-footed on 66 minutes, was one to admire. Paterson ensured there were a few jitters among the home fans with an opportunist strike, but Salah’s pass and Shaqiri’s confident finish in front of the Kop calmed those fears.
There was still time for more, Salah sending Mane through to finish deftly past Neil Etheridge in the Cardiff goal for his 50th in the Premier League. The Welshmen were game, and pretty well organised for the most part, but they looked well beaten at this point. Warnock had said it would be “virtually impossible” for his side to beat Liverpool; he was right.
With trips to Arsenal and Belgrade to come, this was a significant win for the Reds, one which was about more than just the three points. Their momentum is growing, and as they continue to win, they are putting pressure on the sides around them.
Job done. Again. Over to you, Poch and Pep.