Here in early January, Liverpool find themselves in an unfamiliar position. Top of the league, sitting four points ahead of Manchester City, most clubs would be viewed in a much more favourable light than Jurgen Klopp's currently are by some.
Their last Premier League outing against City was billed by many, albeit foolishly, as a title decider. A win in that game would have put Liverpool ten points clear of the defending champions, an almost insurmountable gap. As we all know, things turned out very differently.
Their loss at The Etihad was followed by an uninspiring FA Cup performance at Molineux, losing to Wolves and crashing out of the competition. Despite fielding what could be generously described as a second-string XI in that game, many have taken the consecutive defeats as a sign of the same old frail Liverpool that we have seen over the past number of years.
The Merseyside club need to put that stereotype to bed if they are to be considered as the best side in the Premier League, and that is why the next few matches will be the defining portion of their season.
A fixture-heavy December was no doubt vital in establishing momentum for the title race, with Liverpool winning all eight of the matches during the calendar month. Without that incredible run they would not currently be in the position they are, but it could be argued that the next five matches will tell us even more about their title credentials.
Their next fixtures hardly leap off the page: Brighton away, Crystal Palace at home, Leicester City at home, West Ham away, Bournemouth at home.
All of those are games Liverpool should win, and that is the point. They have to win those games.
Manchester City's recent poor showings against Leicester and Crystal Palace not withstanding, the most impressive part of their form over the past season and a half was their ability to not drop points against the Premier League's lesser sides. They won all of those games, when their rivals failed to do so.
If Liverpool are to maintain their current position, they need to emulate that.
To be fair, they have done that so far this season. Their only dropped points have come in four games against City (twice), Chelsea and Arsenal, with three of those four outings coming away from home.
But now the pressure is on Liverpool, even more so than before. They have lost two in a row, and are suffering from some major injury problems at the back. Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip are all currently on the treatment table, and they are a Virgil van Dijk injury away from not having a single senior central defender fit to play.
Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly stated that they are taking this season one game at a time. While this mentality has been mocked in certain circles, to do anything else would be foolish. Already thinking about upcoming games against the likes of Manchester United can only prove to be a negative. Look too far ahead, and you will miss the challenge right in front of you.
Make no mistake, Brighton will be a major test, especially considering the circumstances. They have performed to a high level this season, especially at the Amex Stadium. The aforementioned injury problems mean that Fabinho will likely deputise in central defence once again, and the home side will no doubt target the Brazilian.
A win is a must in that game as Liverpool seek to regain their form. Anything else, and the pressure will really begin to pile on. The Reds have been mentally frail at times during Klopp's reign, a problem that seemed to be largely solved so far this season. That will now be put to the test, as they seek to bounce back from two straight defeats.
The Liverpool of old would likely drop points during the course of the next five games. What the 'new' Liverpool do will tell us an awful lot about their chances of winning major silverware come the end of the season.