No hiding place as Liverpool seek to revive top-four hopes

By Martyn Herman
Britain Football Soccer - Leicester City v Liverpool - Premier League - King Power Stadium - 27/2/17 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp before the game Reuters / Darren Staples Livepic

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - If ever there was a good day to bury bad news, Liverpool timed it to perfection on Monday, when a dreadful 3-1 defeat by Leicester City became a mere sideshow in the post-Claudio Ranieri circus.

Leicester's remarkable transformation from relegation battlers to something resembling the side that won the Premier League last season made the headlines, leaving Liverpool's downward trend largely overlooked.

There will be no hiding place for Juergen Klopp's side on Saturday, though, when they host Arsenal - even if the visitors also find themselves under the microscope.

Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Feb. 11 appeared to be a return to form for Klopp's side. They taken three points from the last 15 available and had suffered defeats against Swansea City and Hull City.

Klopp took his players to southern Spain after the Tottenham win, but rather than return refreshed for an assault on the top four, they went down with a whimper at Leicester. Liverpool remain in fifth place, but defeat by Arsenal would likely see them overtaken by an in-form Manchester United.

Victory, however, would take Liverpool above the north Londoners, and keeper Simon Mignolet believes the visit of Arsenal could help them get their season back on track.

"You can use criticism as some sort of energy to get yourselves back up again and push yourselves even further and harder, looking forward to the next opportunity," he said.

"That's what we have to do. It's a new game (against Arsenal), a new 90 minutes to play, and this weekend it'll be the only thing that matters.

"We showed at the Emirates at the beginning of the season that we can get a result, play really good football and create chances against Arsenal."

Liverpool won an astonishing game 4-3 at Arsenal on the opening day of the season with Philippe Coutinho scoring twice -- a match that said plenty about both team's strengths and weaknesses. Great going forward, but fragile at the back.

Arsenal have lost two of their last three Premier League games and suffered a 5-1 hammering at Bayern Munich in the Champions League, so confidence is fragile.

"We have not done well recently in this kind of game. It is an opportunity we want to take," manager Arsene Wenger said.

Leaders Chelsea must wait until Monday at West Ham United to continue their relentless title quest. By then their lead could have been trimmed to seven points by second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who face Everton on Sunday.

Third-placed Manchester City, 11 points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, go to bottom club Sunderland, also on Sunday.

Manchester United have a chance to put pressure on the clubs around them when they host Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime.

Undefeated in the league since October and buoyed by their league Cup triumph at Wembley last week, Jose Mourinho's side would go fourth, at least temporarily, with a win.

Leicester's caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare has the chance to boost his chances of taking over from Ranieri permanently when his side host 19th-placed Hull City.

Victory could put some daylight between the champions and the bottom three.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman)