Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool have a fight on their hands just to qualify for the Champions League this season before he can even think about a title defense.
Sunday's goalless draw at home to Premier League leaders Manchester United, together with wins for Leicester and Manchester City, left Liverpool fourth in the table.
A series of injuries to key defenders, most notably to Virgil van Dijk, has disrupted Liverpool's season, but they are also missing the presence of Diogo Jota at the other end as goals have dried up.
"The most important thing is to qualify for the Champions League and I know how difficult it is. This season will be a tough race for the top four," Klopp, 53, said, acknowledging fans were "not the most patient species" in wanting to win every match.
"I'm not too different but I am long enough in the business to know that you have to go through more difficult periods as well," he said.
Only Alisson Becker's saves from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba prevented Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United being the first team to win at Anfield since 2017.
There was no shortage of goals for United's crosstown rival Manchester City, although they came from a rare source: John Stones.
He did so twice after finally breaking his duck, first in the 26th minute from a Kevin De Bruyne cross and then again in the 68th, with Ilkay Gundogan netting soon after the break and Raheem Sterling finishing off a dominant 4-0 win over Crystal Palace in the 88th.
In the only other league match, Tanguy Ndombele audaciously flicked over goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from a tight angle to complete Tottenham's 3-1 victory at last-place Sheffield United. It gave Jose Mourinho's fifth-place side a first away success in the Premier League in two months.