Winning the Premier League is more difficult than lifting the Champions League, says Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who could have a decisive say in the title race when his side host Liverpool.
Liverpool could cut Manchester City’s lead at the Premier League summit to just a point by winning at Southampton on Tuesday, after Pep Guardiola’s team were held to a 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday.
Victory over Southampton, who have won just one of their last 10 league games, would keep Jurgen Klopp’s side in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple. A shock win for Southampton would hand the title to City.
Having already secured the EFL Cup and FA Cup, both on penalties against Chelsea in the final, Liverpool also have the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28 in Paris to contend with.
But Hasenhuttl, speaking at a pre-match news conference on Monday, labelled the Premier League as the most challenging of titles to win.
“We all know Jurgen and how strong he is and you can be sure that he doesn’t give up the chance for winning the league, for sure,” said Hasenhuttl.
“This is still the title that is the most countable for everybody because it’s the hardest to get. For me it’s even harder to be over 38 games in the Premier League consistently on the top than to win the Champions League sometimes.
“Even if he [Klopp] says it’s tough for him to go for all four, I know he will do everything to win this game on Tuesday to give himself a chance on the last day.”
Time to hear from the boss
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Klopp has already suggested he does not envisage City dropping points at home to Aston Villa on the final day, but Liverpool first have to negotiate the hurdle presented by Southampton, who won this exact fixture 1-0 last season.
Southampton have also taken two points off City this campaign, with two stalemates in as many league games, but Hasenhuttl appreciates the sizeable task at hand when Liverpool visit.
“I think it is fantastic for the Premier League to have such a close title race,” he added.
“Everybody is electrified from this battle and we are now part of this duel. We have done our job this season against Man City with two points. They lost four points against us in the title race.
“Against Liverpool, the first game we lost, so now it’s up to us to show again that we can be competitive against a top team.
“For me, it’s one of the most difficult games to prepare for because of the flexibility of the opponent and the unbelievable offensive qualities they have.”
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Southampton have taken home points against Manchester United and Tottenham as well as City this season, but have lost eight of their last nine league meetings with Liverpool.
Hasenhuttl was quick to add that Klopp’s side may pose the toughest task yet for his side, who sit 15th in the Premier League.
“This is maybe the most difficult one at home,” he continued.
“We have shown against the top teams that we can achieve something very big – and this is what we will need on Tuesday evening. They [the players] know what team we are facing, they know how tough it is, they know on what run of form they are.
“It’s our Champions League final, if you want. And we are going for this with everything we have and the team that is on the pitch is the team that will do everything to make them [the fans] proud.”