Back at the start of August Gary Neville was speaking to Balls, and detailed how he believed that Liverpool's best chance of winning the Premier League is if they get knocked out of the Champions League early:
I think Liverpool need to go out of the Champions League pre Christmas to have a good chance of winning the league. I don’t think they can challenge on both fronts with the way they play, unless they adapt and they change: the way they play at 100 miles an hour from the first minute to the last minute, it’s very hard to do that Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday.
I think it’ll be tough but if they were to go of the Champions League and they had free weeks after Christmas, Saturday-to-Saturday they could be a real threat this season to City. I do think they have one over on City. The challenge for them is can they repeat that level of energy and that level of focus every three days? But they are a challenger this year, Liverpool.
In Jurgen Klopp's press conference ahead of Liverpool's showdown against Spurs, Neville's point was put to the German, who gave short shrift to the idea that his team would focus on one competition more than another:
Gary should come over and tell me exactly how that would work. How do you prepare a game and not focus on it? You bring your kids in the Champions League? That would be funny!
I don’t know what he means with that, to be honest. We have to play football. A lot of people watch our games when we play Champions League and that’s our job that we do the best we can do in all these games. ‘That’s what we try. I don’t know exactly what it means but to focus on one competition can only be if maybe you are already out of the competition nearly. ‘If it’s late in the season that you see you have a chance to do that or do this and all that stuff.
Last year, for example, we had no chance to focus on one competition because we had to qualify for the Champions League and I don’t think that even Gary Neville would have said, ‘Quarter-finals of the Champions League, let City win’. ‘It doesn’t work like this. I don’t want to be too critical because I don’t know exactly how he said it but sitting in an office and talking about football is completely different to doing the job, to be honest.
A standard response from Klopp, who was hardly going to agree with the idea that his team should just forfeit their participation in Europe's biggest club competition, though to be fair Neville's point was more about the practicalities of enforcing Klopp's high energy game repeatedly over a short space of time.
Liverpool are set to face into a run of fixtures that may test Neville's theory. The Reds take on Spurs at Wembley on Saturday before playing PSG, Southampton, Chelsea (twice), Napoli and Man City in what could be a season defining series of fixtures for the club.