sport news Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool set for season-defining week after reality checks

Is it possible that a season in which Liverpool have sent all manner of records tumbling could yet end as an anti-climax?

Two defeats in the past fortnight have served as a reality check for Jurgen Klopp's team, stalling the imperious progress that has been the theme of the season.

Liverpool lost the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid 1-0 a fortnight ago and then saw their unbeaten league run blown out of the water by Watford on Saturday.

Dejection for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool players following their bruising 3-0 loss at Watford

Dejection for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool players following their bruising 3-0 loss at Watford

Virgil van Dijk rallied the troops during a chastening night at Vicarage Road on Saturday

Virgil van Dijk rallied the troops during a chastening night at Vicarage Road on Saturday 

Liverpool - 22 points clear - are closing in on their first league championship in 30 years

Liverpool - 22 points clear - are closing in on their first league championship in 30 years

Liverpool fixtures 

Premier League unless stated

Tuesday Chelsea (A)

FA Cup fifth round

Saturday Bournemouth (H)

March 10 Atletico Madrid (H)

Champions League last-16, second leg

March 16 Everton (A)

March 21 Crystal Palace (H)

April 5 Manchester City (A) 

Sandwiched in between was a distinctly unconvincing 3-2 win over West Ham that required them to come from behind.

Of course, with their 22-point advantage at the top of the table, it remains a case of when rather than if they'll secure a first league title in 30 years.

But nonetheless, Liverpool's season more generally now hinges on a critical seven days ahead that will decide their destiny in two competitions.

Klopp's men head to Chelsea on Tuesday night in the fifth round of the FA Cup before hosting Bournemouth in the league on Saturday.

Then next Tuesday comes the return leg with Atletico at Anfield, as the reigning European champions look to overturn that single-goal deficit and make the last eight.

Sportsmail analyses a week that suddenly has taken on a season-defining importance for the Reds.

What has been going wrong?

It was a bruising night for Liverpool back on the scene of their Champions League triumph back in June.

Whereas that visit to Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano had ended with champagne and celebrations, this time they had been outmuscled and outwitted, with most of those in red shirts suffering a first taste of defeat since September.

While Atletico's fans celebrated as though the contest was over, Liverpool were left to lick their wounds and reflect on how they'd enjoyed 73 per cent of possession and not done anything with it against Atletico's doughty defence.

It was a night of frustration for Mohamed Salah and Liverpool as they lost 1-0 in Madrid

It was a night of frustration for Mohamed Salah and Liverpool as they lost 1-0 in Madrid 

They moved the ball too slowly that night, lacked drive from midfield and let themselves down with sloppy crosses and set-piece deliveries after Atletico had taken a fourth-minute lead.

At the time, it was only the second occasion in 251 matches Klopp has taken charge of at Liverpool that they failed to muster a single shot on target.

Liverpool were strangled and stifled, their miserable night compounded by a hamstring injury suffered by captain Jordan Henderson that ruled him out of the two subsequent games.

Captain Jordan Henderson suffered a hamstring injury in the first leg defeat to Atletico

Captain Jordan Henderson suffered a hamstring injury in the first leg defeat to Atletico

It could be put down to an off night and, very much still in the tie, Liverpool could and can take solace from the fact they still haven't lost a two-legged European tie under Klopp.

But there were certainly more alarm bells ringing after last Monday's game with West Ham, even though they emerged 3-2 winners to move a step closer to the title.

Liverpool missed Henderson's presence and poise in midfield, with Klopp unhappy at Naby Keita's positional play in his absence, eventually taking him off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Naby Keita was taken off during the West Ham match as Liverpool had to come back to win

Naby Keita was taken off during the West Ham match as Liverpool had to come back to win

There was anxiety from the Anfield stands as West Ham took a 2-1 lead following some surprising lapses in concentration at the back.

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