Liverpool (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp warned much tougher challenges lie ahead of Liverpool’s quest to end a near three-decade wait to win the Premier League after brushing aside West Ham 4-0 at a jubilant Anfield on Sunday.
Mohamed Salah opened his account for the season, Sadio Mane scored twice and Daniel Sturridge added a late fourth in an impressive display by Klopp’s men as £65 million ($83 million) goalkeeper Alisson Becker kept a clean sheet on debut.
Liverpool haven’t been crowned champions of England since 1989/90 and finished 25 points behind City last season.
But after reaching the Champions League final in May and spending more than anyone else in the Premier League in the off-season, there is palpable belief that wait will come to an end in May.
“We know about our expectations and noticed the very positive atmosphere around us in the whole pre-season,” said Klopp.
“It’s good people are positive, but the season again will be unbelievably hard.”
Klopp has tried to keep a lid on expectations given the gap to City last season despite spending a reported £170 million.
“We cannot be anything different than the challenger because we have not won anything since I’ve been in (charge), a long time. We have to invest more, fight more,” he added.
“West Ham will play a good season but they are not the (Manchester) Uniteds or (Manchester) Citys. We have to be ready week in, week out for the different challenges.”
– Salah starts over –
There was little tinkering for Klopp to do up front after Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino combined for 91 goals last season, and they again provided the firepower to outclass a sorry West Ham despite their own near £100 million outlay on nine new players.
Salah and Mane’s pain at international level was Liverpool’s gain as early exits at the World Cup with Egypt and Senegal meant they could join the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, unlike a host of Premier League stars who returned to training just last week after their exertions in Russia.
A revelation in his first season at Anfield with 44 goals in all competitions, Salah is now a marked man.
Yet, he was given the simplest of tasks to tap home the opener into an empty net on 19 minutes from Andy Robertson’s pinpoint cross after he was freed down the left by the impressive Keita.