Jurgen Klopp is confident his Liverpool side can pick up where they left off before the suspension of the Premier League but stresses that football is “not like riding a bike”.
The Reds were enjoying one of the best campaigns in Premier League history when the league was halted in March.
They go into Sunday’s Merseyside derby at Everton 22 points clear at the top and two wins away from the title.
“I expect us to be in a good shape,” said Klopp.
“I don’t know if we are 100% but Everton have had the same time [off]. It is all about being ready to face problems in a game and finding solutions.
“In nine weeks not doing anything you can lose almost anything. The players trained every day but we don’t train them for a specific moment as we had no idea until a week before that training would start again.
“Training is completely different if you just want to keep fit or be in the best shape for a specific day. We kept them fit until we knew until we go again and the boys don’t lose a lot.
“Unfortunately it is not like riding a bike. We have to bring 11 or more players together to have the same idea in the same moment.”
Sunday’s is the 236th Merseyside derby and comes 103 days since Liverpool last played, in their home second leg against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, which saw them exit the tournament they won the previous May.
Two wins will give them a first top-flight title since 1990.
They face an Everton side that have not beaten them in 21 attempts in all competitions – a record run for either side in this fixture.
“Everton will be highly motivated,” said Klopp. “Starting a derby in a normal season would be interesting, and now it is our short season it is very interesting.
“It is a special game for different reasons.”
Everton have a raft of injuries in midfield, with Morgan Schneiderlin, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph ruled out.
Defender Yerry Mina and winger Theo Walcott are also sidelined but Andre Gomes is available.
Liverpool have no new injury concerns, with goalkeeper Alisson fit after a hip problem.
Forward Mohamed Salah and full-back Andy Robertson are expected to feature after overcoming fitness concerns.
MOTD COMMENTATOR’S NOTES
@Guymowbray: The 236th Merseyside derby will be the strangest one ever played. Indeed, without the passion of fans to bring home what it means locally, will it have any feel of a true derby fixture?
I’m hopeful that to a decent extent it will, with all on both sides well aware of the extra significance of any meeting between the clubs – and the millions upon millions watching worldwide.
Perhaps the fact that Liverpool can’t secure the title by winning the game helps? The focus outside the city is not only on them but back on the occasion itself.
The two men in charge certainly help with the appeal to neutrals (not that ‘neutrals’ really matter!). With the possible exception of Pep Guardiola, there have been few managers as impressive in their words and deeds over the last few weeks as Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp.
Voluntary pay deferral; heartfelt messages of support for seriously ill and isolated fans; studied reaction to and understanding of the Black Lives Matter campaign – throughout lockdown these two vastly experienced and charismatic Premier League bosses have hit all the right notes.
You can be sure that they’ve prepared their players to do so on the field too, with Ancelotti mindful that his team will have to “play a perfect game” to have any chance of a first derby win in 22 attempts.
Therein lies the problem. A first match back after such a long layoff will be quite a long way off being perfect – and a derby without fans even further.
I am expecting Liverpool to be the team trying to set the pace but it is optimistic to expect the kind of performance that has put them so far clear at the top of the table.
As good as the Reds’ front three are, they are only brilliant when they are really sharp and I don’t think they will be.
I would not be surprised if Everton are cautious, play three at the back and sit in a little bit – they don’t want to get torn apart – so because of all that I can see it being a close game.
But the way Liverpool’s season has gone so far, I am still going to go with them to find a way of winning. We already know they are capable of doing that when they are not at their best.
Lawro’s full predictions v Sports Team drummer Al Greenwood
- The Reds can equal their longest top-flight unbeaten streak versus a single opponent of 19 matches.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in 21 matches against Everton in all competitions (W11, D10), a record run without defeat for either club in this fixture.
- Everton have not won the second league Merseyside derby of a season since 1987-88, a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park.
- Everton have gone three league matches without a win, but they are unbeaten at home in the past seven league games (W4, D3).
- Their tally of 18 points under Carlo Ancelotti has only been bettered by Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United during the same period.
- Ancelotti (Real Madrid, Napoli) has won all three competitive home matches as a manager versus Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool), by an aggregate score of 6-0.
- Everton are one short of becoming the first club to concede 2,500 top-flight home goals.
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored eight goals in 11 Premier League appearances under Ancelotti.
- Liverpool’s defeat at Watford in their most recent Premier League away fixture ended a run of eight successive victories on the road.
- They could lose four successive away matches in all competitions for the first time since April 2012 under Kenny Dalglish.
- Their record of 27 wins, one draw and one defeat is the best by any club after 29 matches in the history of the top five European leagues.
- The Reds require 19 points out of a possible 27 to break Manchester City’s top-flight record tally of 100.
- Liverpool have conceded six goals in their last three league fixtures, following a run of letting in just one in 11 matches.
- Divock Origi has scored five goals in seven games against Everton in all competitions. He needs one goal to draw level with Robbie Fowler’s Merseyside derby total of six.
- Roberto Firmino has failed to score in any of his nine Merseyside derby appearances in all competitions.