(Reuters) - Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp does not believe the Premier League has lost its competitiveness this season and he anticipates a “proper struggle” when his team visit second-bottom side Watford on Saturday.
Liverpool, who are chasing a record-breaking 19th consecutive top-flight victory at Vicarage Road, are currently 22 points clear at the top of the table.
After overcoming relegation-threatened Norwich City and West Ham United by one-goal margins in their last two matches, Klopp said their league positions do not reflect the threat they pose on the pitch.
“I didn’t need it as proof (about the strength of league),” Klopp told a news conference. “You can’t imagine with Norwich and West Ham playing against us, that they are bottom of table.
“We have to be 100% ready for these fights. That’s what I love about my boys, when it’s not clicking they don’t lose desire, it is other way.
“Watford will be really tough, 100%. Very physical and everybody will see how much it means to them, so we have to make sure everybody can see how much it means to us as well.”
Klopp confirmed Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri are closing in on a return to first-team action but the trio will remain unavailable this weekend.
Henderson sustained a hamstring injury during last week’s Champions League first-leg defeat by Atletico Madrid, and Milner missed Monday’s victory over West Ham with a muscle strain.
Swiss forward Shaqiri has been on the sidelines since sustaining a calf issue last month.
“Hendo is running, Millie is running and even more. It was not enough for this game now, but we will see – especially with Millie – what we can do for Tuesday (FA Cup fifth round match against Chelsea),” Klopp added.
“I’m not sure about Hendo, and Shaq not yet, but they are all coming closer.”
Klopp said Liverpool are monitoring the coronavirus situation but there is no panic around Anfield over the illness.
The German was also unaware if the virus would have any potential impact on their pre-season plans.
“For pre-season we haven’t thought about changing anything because of coronavirus. We are relying on what the medical department say,” he said.
“We take it very seriously but we can’t avoid everything. It’s not a football problem but a society one. Hopefully the smarter people find the way.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis