LONDON (Reuters) - New-found grit and obstinacy are serving Liverpool well in their pursuit of a top-four finish, helping them to register back-to-back wins against Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion and reclaim third place in the Premier League table.
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are clear at the summit but below them Liverpool have begun to firm up the soft underbelly that had undermined their aspirations earlier in the season.
For much of this campaign they have been irresistible against their closest rivals but they were haunted by their failure to beat those lower down the table.
However, in claiming six points from successive trips to Stoke and West Brom, they have triumphed at two of the league's toughest venues where the hopes of many big teams have been sunk in recent years.
"It feels fantastic because it is such a tough place," manager Juergen Klopp told Sky Sports after Roberto Firmino's goal sealed a 1-0 win at West Brom on Sunday.
"All three points is really special for us. The boys did fantastic. I'm really happy.
"It was a big win against a good, tall team. We played really well from the first second.
"We needed to adapt to what West Brom wanted to do. In all our plans it was 'no set-pieces, no set-pieces, no set-pieces'.
"We scored a nice goal after a set-piece and kept the ball well. We defended well, the protection was good and Simon (Mignolet) was really lively."
Liverpool could still be passed by Manchester City if they win their game in hand but they hold a healthy lead over Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal.
The last two both have games in hand but United must win every one to draw level with Liverpool, while Arsenal would still be three points adrift if they won all three.
"Today we could only get to 66 points, so it feels perfect," Klopp said. "Next week we try at Anfield to get 69, and let's carry on. If we do what we have to do, we will be where we want to be."
Liverpool, in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten spell, have a kind-looking run-in with ninth-placed Southampton their highest opponents.
(Reporting By Tom Hayward; Editing by Clare Fallon)