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    Graeme Souness on Everton change that won’t bother ‘real deal’ Liverpool

    The setting will be somewhat different when Liverpool finally return to Premier League action next Sunday.

    However, for Anfield legend Graeme Souness, one aspect remains conspicuously unchanged.

    Jurgen Klopp’s European and world champions are still the team nobody wants to play against.

    The Reds will aim to take a firm step towards clinching the championship when they resume their campaign with a short trip across Stanley Park to take on neighbours Everton.

    Liverpool’s first top-flight game since the 2-1 home win over Bournemouth on March 7 will also see them break new ground with a competitive fixture behind closed doors.

    As with the rest of the Premier League, their remaining nine games will be played without supporters as part of the restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak.

    Souness, though, doesn’t believe it will have any impact on Liverpool’s title challenge.

    “I’ve played practice matches behind closed doors,” recalls the former Reds manager and skipper. “When I was at Liverpool we’d play a game against the reserves during pre-season at Anfield.

    “That said, I could never remember winning one – the reserves would normally beat us up!

    “But I wouldn’t make a deal about empty stadiums. Everyone is in the same boat, they will all have to deal with the same thing.

    “And if there’s one team you don’t want to play in the Premier League, it’s Liverpool.

    “That was the same at the start of the season, at Christmas time, and it’ll be the same in the restart. Teams know they are in for a real physical encounter, and then you throw in some of the magicians you have playing for them.”

    Before the season was suspended on March 13, Liverpool had won 27 of their 29 Premier League games – the best such record in the history of any of Europe’s leading leagues.

    It’s why Klopp’s side are a record 25 points clear at the summit and need to win only two more games to clinch the title for the first time since 1990.

    And Souness believes Liverpool’s success is built on the same foundations that saw the club prosper magnificently during the 1970s and 1980s.

    “Liverpool’s consistency means that it shouldn’t really matter where they play the games,” he says. “They remind me of the Liverpool teams when I was playing, in that their first thought is to work harder than the opposition.

    “If you are working harder in your individual battle within the game, then collectively you’ll be working harder as a team. And because they have such cracking footballers, that gives them the chance to win the game.

    “They more than match teams for effort, and then they have more technique, more imagination and are fitter all round, that’s why they win more games.

    “The principles remain the same. That’s what Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran would tell us – work harder than the other team, because you are better players.”

    Earlier during lockdown, there were growing fears the disruption caused by the epidemic could scupper hopes of Liverpool claiming the championship.

    Clubs such as West Ham United and leading figures including Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane and Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne had indicated they would be happy for the season to be declared null and void.

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    Souness, however, was never worried the campaign would be scrapped.

    “Like with most people, there was a sense of shock but after a few weeks I started to miss football,” he says, speaking in association with Sky Sports.

    “It’s easy to say now, but I always felt the Premier League would give themselves a chance to finish the season.

    “I wasn’t nervous Liverpool wouldn’t have a chance to finish the job. Given how much the finances mean to the clubs, the league had to have a chance to finish.

    “But with Liverpool 25 points ahead, only people down the East Lancs Road would argue they wouldn’t have deserved it had it not been restarted.

    “You could have given Liverpool the Premier League in January because the rest had given up the ghost by then because of the consistency and quality they have shown.

    “The season they have had is just sensational, like last season. They are not a flash in the pan. They are the real deal.”

    *There will be 64 Premier League games live on Sky Sports this season, 25 free to air via Sky Pick including the Merseyside derby.

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