Xherdan Shaqiri has warned Manchester City that Liverpool “will be there until the end” in the Premier League title race.
The Reds kept up the pressure at the top of the table with a hard-fought 3-0 victory at Watford on Saturday, their 10th from 13 league games so far this season.
Jurgen Klopp’s men remain just two points behind City, although Pep Guardiola’s champions have shown little sign of feeling the heat of late, winning 4-0 at West Ham while Liverpool were grafting at Vicarage Road.
Still it promises, at the very least, to be a tighter chase than last season, with the Reds looking better-equipped to last the course than for many a year. Their clean sheet on Saturday means they have now made their best ever start to a league season defensively, with just five goals conceded from 13 matches.
Shaqiri was all smiles when stopping to speak to reporters after the Watford game. The Swiss star, clearly, is enjoying his football following his £13million (€14.7m/$16.7m) summer switch from Stoke.
And he had a message for City.
“We’re going to be there until the end!” he grinned. “We don’t have to look to Man City, we just have to look to ourselves and try to give our good performance on the pitch and win games, that’s the most important thing.
“Every game has its own history and we have to look game to game and not look where we’re staying at the end of the season. When you win games like this, we’re going to fight to the end for a lot of things so I think we just have to keep going, keep working hard and win games.”
Shaqiri’s own form has seen him play his way into Klopp’s first team, the 27-year-old starting six games in recent weeks, including Liverpool’s last two in the Premier League. During the international break, he starred for Switzerland as they qualified for next summer’s UEFA Nations League finals.
“I’m feeling good, I’m fit and that’s important for me,” he said. “I think you can see that also on the pitch, that I’m settling in well with the team.
“I think you saw that also [against Watford]. First half, I tried to give them some good passes. I’m feeling good, it was important to win and it was a good win.”
Klopp has described the coming weeks as “the most intense period of the season”, with Watford the first in a run of 11 games in less than six weeks.
Next up for the Reds is a Champions League trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, with a Merseyside derby against Everton to follow at Anfield on Sunday.
Shaqiri is already looking forward to those challenges. They are, surely, the kind of games he moved to Liverpool for.
“Of course,” he said. “It’s my first derby so it’s going to be, for sure, very special. I want to see and to feel the atmospheres in these derbies.
“It’s going to be very special and I’m just looking forward to this game. I know just one Evertonian and he said to me when I was at Stoke, ‘You have to come to Everton’. But I always said ‘No!’”
As for PSG, the hope is that he has done enough to convince Klopp he can be trusted from the start of a high-stakes away game.
“Every player has to be ready for that game,” Shaqiri said. “We don’t know how the coach is going to make the starting XI but everybody has to be ready.
“We had a lot of players today on the bench who didn’t play so I think we have fresh players behind us. It’s going to be a difficult game and a good game to show how good we are. We also go there to try and win the game, for sure.”
Liverpool will head to the Ligue 1 champions in high spirits, courtesy of a ruthless second-half display at Watford. The Reds were made to battle for their win, but stayed patient and overpowered the Hornets in the final half hour, with goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, as well as a brilliant free-kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“We had to be patient because they were set up very defensively and it was difficult to find solutions sometimes, to create something,” Shaqiri said.
“I think that there you can see how good you are. Sometimes the top teams, you know the [opposition] are going to stay very defensive. In the end we showed our class and we deserved to win the game.”
On Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick, an effort Shaqiri himself would have been proud of, the former Stoke man smiled: “He’s been teaching me those! I’m happy for him that he scored and it was a nice goal, I hope he can score a lot of them!”