Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has insisted that using their top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal as a decider for the title race is actually meaningless.
The Premier League leaders arrive at Anfield just one point ahead and even though victory would see Klopp’s side take top spot for Christmas, he does not believe it makes a huge amount of difference with more than half the season to go.
Liverpool have been here before only last month when they went to then leaders Manchester City and came away with a draw, since when Pep Guardiola’s side have slipped to fourth after winning just one of their four matches.
“I love it the most when you are first and 55 points ahead because then it’s pure joy. (But) the position we are in is not that bad,” he said.
“Matchday 18? It means after that we play 20 more games so if we win it we are not through, they win it they are not through even when that is the headlines they will have to deal with.
“Actually, I didn’t really think about it, I am just interested in this game tomorrow and not what it means for the rest of the season.
“The position we are in is OK, we don’t feel it is exceptional and ‘wow, how did we end up here?’. I really think we deserve where we are, but it is just the basis.
“There might be be a moment March or April maybe when you think ‘OK, six-pointer, you win today and you have them out of the way or whatever’, but that is obviously far off and nobody thinks about these kind of things.
“It is just a super-important football game.”
Liverpool have been performing beyond expectations so far this season after finishing fifth in May and Arsenal, it can be argued, are ahead of them in terms of progress as this is their second successive campaign of being in a title race.
Klopp believes that experience, and their summer recruitment, makes them worthy rivals as they both attempt to break City’s dominance.
“I thought they looked like that (title challengers) last year to be honest and then some results kicked in,” he added.
“The team we faced (last season) was a super-strong team and then you bring in (Declan) Rice and (Kai) Havertz and it doesn’t make you worse. (David) Raya in goal doesn’t make you worse.
“Mikel could build exactly the team he wants; they are difficult to play, they are a good mix between physicality – big, strong, fast players – good technique, very good organisation, really well coached, well drilled and you see every year they make another step.
“They really have my respect, but we want the points anyway.”
Ryan Gravenberch is set to return after a muscle problem, but fellow midfielder Alexis Mac Allister (knee) and forward Diogo Jota (hamstring) are still out.
Left-back Andy Robertson, sidelined since a dislocated shoulder on Scotland duty in October required surgery, is expected to return next month.
“The problem is the shoulder is not there, the rest of the body is fine but we need to be patient a little bit longer,” said Klopp.
“He can do all the physical work already, which annoys him quite a lot because it is not allowed for ball training.
“When he is allowed to go shoulder-wise I think it is a short time until he will be back and we all hope it will be January, but I don’t know.”