It is “ludicrous” to suggest Liverpool are “bottling” the title race, says Premier League winner Chris Sutton.
Jurgen Klopp’s side led by seven points from Manchester City going into their game on 3 January, but sit one point behind after Sunday’s draw at Everton .
The Reds have never won the Premier League and have not won the English title since the 1989-90 season.
“To me the Liverpool fans seem to be bottling it, not the players and Klopp,” said Sutton.
“Can’t we just say that Liverpool and Manchester City are two great teams – it’s a brilliant title race. This will go to the wire.
“When Manchester City lost earlier in the season to Palace and Leicester and Newcastle, did we say Manchester City are bottling it?”
The Reds have only lost one league game this season but have drawn four of their past six, including against rivals Manchester United and Everton.
“Is drawing at Manchester United bottling it?” Sutton, who won the title with Blackburn in 1995, told the Monday Night Club.
“Everton, their rivals, seemed to really up their game – their best moment of the season may be stopping Liverpool win a title.
“It’s ludicrous to suggest that Liverpool are bottling it. They are absolutely not. The players are just focused on the next game.”
Paul Ince, who spent two seasons at Liverpool between 1997 and 1999, says the club’s 29-year wait for a league title is making the fans “quite nervous”.
“The word ‘bottle’ is probably very harsh when it comes to Liverpool,” he said.
“Liverpool fans don’t know how to react at this moment in time because they’ve never been in this position, apart from when Brendan Rodgers was there and they slipped up.
“As a player nowadays it’s a lot bigger, because of social media you can’t get away from it. It’s Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool… and every mistake they make, every result they don’t get, people are going to start throwing criticism.”
Ince says he experienced a similar situation when he was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side that won the club’s first title for 26 years in 1993.
“At a club of that magnitude, you know the history, you know they’ve not won for 26 years and you know you’re getting closer to it,” he explained.
“Fergie would say don’t read the papers, but you can’t get away from it and the closer it gets towards the end of the season, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. You can’t get away from it.”
And Ince says Liverpool’s star players need to “stand up and be counted” after top scorer Mohamed Salah missed two good chances against Everton and has netted just once in his past seven matches.
“Fans come up to you and keep reminding you. Subconsciously, you don’t try to think about it but it’s in your head,” said the former England midfielder.
“This is your defining moment, this is where the big players have to stand up and be counted.
“That’s why against Everton… Salah, if that had been Eric Cantona or Alan Shearer, they score that.”
Ian Wright, who won the Premier League with Arsenal in 1998, says it is unfair to say Liverpool are “bottling” the title race as they have progressed since Klopp took charge in 2015.
“They have got to a stage now where they are chasing down one of arguably the best teams the Premier League has seen,” added Wright. “They are one point behind them with nine games to go.
“The biggest disappointment is how quickly they’ve almost written themselves off in the race. At the moment, they are in a little bit of a ‘down’ but they are still in it.
“Of course, City know what it’s like to lead. City are happy, Pep Guardiola is happy leading. That’s what they do.”
And Wright says what the players need most is for the fans to stick with them.
“Just get in the stadium and make it a fortress again, frighten the away teams, that’s what will help the players and that’s what they need now,” he said.