Tuesday 8 January 2019 4:47 pm

Trevor Steven: Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat is a blow but Jurgen Klopp is right to focus on the Premier League and Europe

It’s been a difficult start to 2019 for Liverpool but their FA Cup defeat by Wolves on Monday was nothing more than unfortunate.

They came into the match on the back of two high intensity games against Arsenal and Manchester City, even if they did thump the former 5-1.

Jurgen Klopp had decisions to make ahead of the third-round match, and perhaps nine changes to his starting line-up was too many. Four or five would have been understandable given their recent fixtures, but you have to believe the manager when he says some were unplanned absentees due to illness.

Look what happened to Dejan Lovren, who was brought off after just six minutes with a hamstring injury. That could just as easily have happened to any of the others who he kept in the side following those high-tempo encounters; so it was a decision that made sense.

Chance to bounce back

The side lacked cohesion and balance because of those changes and it may have cost them the game, but they will have had a nice break by Saturday when they can get back on track away to Brighton.

After that there is an appealing run of fixtures for Liverpool. They play Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth in the league, with a weekend off toward the end of the month while others are in the FA Cup.

The past week has just been a blip. They still lead the Premier League on merit and while Klopp will obviously receive some criticism, the league and Champions League have to remain priorities.

Liverpool may have not won a trophy since Kenny Dalglish guided them to the League Cup in 2012, but they have made significant progress since then. First of all under Brendan Rodgers, and then after a dip, Klopp.

Clear progress made

Hindsight is a wonderful thing in football and although Liverpool have missed out on the opportunity to fight for silverware in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup this year, it is easy to understand why Klopp is tempted to focus on the league and in Europe.

They have improved 10 to 15 per cent from last season when they reached the Champions League final, adding more depth and more experience to their ranks. The goalkeeper, Alisson, in particular has made a big difference.

If they finish the season trophyless, Klopp’s job will not be under threat because they have competed for the top honours.

Five months to fight

Liverpool have five months to fight for the two biggest prizes on offer and the league is still in their hands. They can say: “If we win all our games, no one can stop us. The trophy is ours.”

For rivals Manchester City it’s more difficult: they have to hope for Liverpool to slip up and that can be an unhelpful, negative thought process.

Winning domestic cups can be a good way to improve confidence and act as something to build upon, it can also give the benefit of attracting a higher calibre of player come the summer.

But Liverpool are already beyond that, they are leading the race with City for the Premier League and competing with the best in Europe for the Champions League.