LIVERPOOL, England -- Nine points behind Manchester City, having played a game fewer than Pep Guardiola's team, and with a potentially crucial trip to Etihad Stadium still to come in April, Liverpool could still pull off a remarkable Premier League title triumph this season. Diogo Jota's double in a 2-0 win against Leicester City at Anfield ensured that Jurgen Klopp's team remain a threat to City's hopes of cruising to a fourth championship in five seasons.
This win kept Liverpool in that strange position of being mathematically close enough to City to not be out of it, but far enough behind for a title surge to seem highly unlikely. One thing for certain is that Klopp's side have no margin for error. One slip and they can surely wave the title goodbye.
"I do not think that [City] smell our breath already," Klopp said after this victory. "But we just try to win football games."
While the focus will understandably be fixed on that outside chance of a second title in three seasons, it should not be overlooked that Liverpool are, in the post-match words of defender Andy Robertson, "still fighting for four competitions."
Liverpool face Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Feb. 27 (11:25 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+), while their FA Cup hopes remain alive and kicking after being paired with Premier League strugglers Norwich City at Anfield in round five. And in the Champions League, while their round-of-16 tie against Italian champions Inter Milan will not be easy, Liverpool's pedigree and recent performances in the competition suggest they will progress to the quarterfinals and possibly all the way to the final in Saint Petersburg on May 28.
Closing the gap to City is the immediate challenge, and it is one that will energise Klopp and his players. With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane back in the Liverpool squad following Africa Cup of Nations duty, Klopp has a formidable group of players to select from in the months ahead and they are the one team that could achieve the near impossible.
No matter what happens in the Premier League, though, Liverpool must see the next three months as an opportunity to win the trophies that this team arguably deserves.
Since 2018, Liverpool have been City's most consistent challengers with a team that has earned comparisons to the club's greatest sides, but despite their incredible performances in the past four years, Klopp's team have won just two major honours in the Champions League (2019) and Premier League (2020). They have also won the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup as spin-offs from Champions League success, but it is the traditional honours that count for Liverpool, and this team has not won enough of them.
Over the same period, City have won eight major trophies. Eight to two is not a true reflection of the quality of City and Liverpool over the past four years, but City have taken the domestic cups seriously while Liverpool have put all their resources into Premier League and Champions League success.
This season gives Liverpool the chance to redress the balance, however, and rack up the silverware that will enable this team to share the pantheon with Anfield's greatest sides. The Premier League is arguably the most unlikely trophy they can win, but Salah showed no post-AFCON hangover during a 30-minute substitute appearance that could have seen him score a hat trick and Jota once again highlighted his ability to decide games with his two goals.
Jota put Liverpool 1-0 ahead on 35 minutes when he scored from close range after Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel palmed away Virgil van Dijk's powerful header. The former Wolves forward then made the points safe on 87 minutes with a neat turn and shot from 12 yards.
Jota's performance, and that of new signing Luis Diaz, were impressive and encouraging in that Klopp will know he can rely on both when, or if, Salah and Mane need to conserve their energy in the weeks ahead.
In the next 106 days, Liverpool will play a minimum of 19 games in all competitions, but if they are able to go all the way in the FA Cup and Champions League, they will have to play another eight. Twenty-seven games in 106 days would mean a fixture every four days, not to mention international fixtures for the majority of Klopp's players, so Liverpool will be tested to the limit if they are to sustain a challenge on four fronts.
But this team is good enough to do it, and it maybe needs to do so. When history judges this Liverpool side, it will seem an anomaly if they end up winning far fewer trophies than they were capable of.