Manchester United and Man City threat looms as Liverpool await consequences of nightmare eight days – Liverpool Echo

All eyes now turn to Anfield on January 17. From a Liverpool perspective, at least.

The Reds have the small matter of an FA Cup trip to Aston Villa on Friday night to negotiate first, but there is little doubt that a meeting with Manchester United later this month is the big story.

After carelessly tossing away control of the Premier League title race with three deeply dispiriting results over the last nine days, the champions have allowed others back into it.

And perhaps it sums up the chaotic nature of this season that it is currently a previously much-maligned United who are most primed to pounce.

Visits from one of the oldest enemies is always thought of as ‘the’ fixture for many of Liverpool‘s worldwide fanbase, but this one will carry several sprinklings of additional spice to it.

If the leaders’ collective Premier League focus is pointing at that game in less than a fortnight, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his charges, it is different.

For a visiting United, their gaze is fixed firmly on next Tuesday when they travel to Burnley.

Avoid defeat and they will go above Liverpool at the summit and give themselves a huge boost in the process ahead of that game at Anfield.

Of their next four fixtures, Liverpool is unquestionably United’s toughest.

That is likely to be a universal truth for any team in the division heading to L4, where the Reds remain unbeaten in 67 Premier League games.

But given United have a gentle-looking couple of weeks against struggling sides like Fulham and Sheffield United to come, their trip down the M62 perhaps takes on greater detail inside the analysis department at Old Trafford.

But Liverpool’s threat from Manchester is two-fold, with an apparently rejuvenated City once more back in the hunt.

Their 3-1 demolition of Chelsea on Sunday was as impressive as it was ominous for a Klopp team who have become accustomed to battling it out at the forefront of the English game with them.

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City’s own meetings with Brighton, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Sheffield United before the end of the month mean the pressure is likely to be kept on the champions.

Surprise package Aston Villa may offer a favour at the Etihad, but Liverpool will be wary of having to rely on anyone but themselves between now and May.

Given United and City’s European exertions at the tail end of last season, they are still in possession of games in hand on Klopp’s side.

Maximum points all around and the Reds will trail both by three points – a position they have not found themselves in properly for a long time.

Quite how damaging this small period of the campaign has been for the Reds remains to be seen long term.

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The fact Klopp’s men could be so badly blown off course by a poor eight days is indicative of how wild this campaign has been and will likely remain, however.

But as spluttering as Liverpool have been of late – and even those with the most rouge-tinted of spectacles can’t deny they have been – there is hope.

Over the next five weeks, they have a chance to take points off both City and United at home.

The added bit of good news for Reds fans is that while performances have dipped well below the required standard against the lesser heralded this term, Liverpool have turned up when the spotlight is shining brightly.

That is exactly what they will need when United roll into town.