First signs of panic beginning to show at Anfield

Gini Wijnaldum has been a standout performer as much as Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA

  Before kick-off at every Liverpool home game, a banner covering the entire Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand makes its way towards The Kop. "18 Times", it reads, decorated by images of those managers who led the triumphs.

It has become a permanent symbol of Liverpool's static Premier League history as much as the proud past.

Those moving it along now do so in the hope it is enjoying its farewell appearance, or at the very least that it will need restitching in recognition of the elusive 19th. Those expectations are spiralling, fed by the social media age in which every victory or setback is declared conclusive.

There is no complacency here. It is the anticipation that is palpable accompanied by a nagging fear it may yet go horribly wrong.

The build-up to Leicester's Anfield visit began at full-time at St James' Park, Newcastle's surprising win over Manchester City serving as some kind of rally cry to the Liverpool world.

Such was the goodwill showered over former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez for engineering that victory, it was a surprise not to see him being carried into Anfield on a Sedan chair.

Instead, Benitez's name was chanted by way of gratitude. But the scars of previous disappointments will not be healed until Liverpool cross that line and, with 15 games left, a celebratory atmosphere was never going to last - it would have been like a marathon runner raising his arms with 10 miles still to run. Instead, the early goal from Sadio Mane offered only temporary reassurance.

There was frenzied apprehension, an anxiety fed by Alisson's inexplicable delayed clearances, the threatening bursts of pace of Jamie Vardy and the scrambling clearances from set-pieces. When Harry Maguire equalised there was the first hint of panic. Anfield has not sounded so worried this season.

Like the last visitors here, Crystal Palace, Leicester exposed a collective disrespect for the rest of the Premier League when the remaining fixtures of Liverpool and City are studied.

Where Klopp may still harbour doubts is in how well his players will keep their composure if those watching lose theirs.

The signs so far have mostly been promising, even in the most testing moments. There is a consensus Liverpool's title build has been built on the serenity of their classy Dutchman.

Virgil van Dijk? Obviously, but Gini Wijnaldum has been a stand-out performer as much as his compatriot.

When Liverpool looked vulnerable against Palace, Wijnaldum's absence was overlooked. It was no coincidence Liverpool conceded three without him. Every title winner has a Wijnaldum, the protector with the capacity to steal possession and break up counter-attacks. Think of N'Golo Kante or Fernandinho.

Wijnaldum is one of the few in Klopp's squad with a championship medal, albeit in Holland. In a team where his compatriot is recognised as a natural leader, Wijnaldum's quiet authority is as invaluable. Only these qualities will see Liverpool through to May.

With every game hyped into an event with potentially historic repercussion, this race is far from run.