BOLTON, August 28 – Liverpool travel to Bolton on Saturday knowing they desperately need a victory to get their Premier League title challenge back on track.Rafael Benitez’s side have lost two of their opening three matches to raise major doubts about their prospects of a first league crown since 1990.
The Reds finished just four points adrift of Manchester United last season and lost only two matches in the whole campaign.
But, while Benitez’s team ran Sir Alex Ferguson’s team close last term, there is a concern among their supporters that if they allow an early gap to develop to the likes of Chelsea and United they will not be able to close it.
They can console themselves with the fact that in three of the last five seasons, the champions have lost a total of five games.
The Anfield team accept there is now little margin for error if they are to end their long wait for a title.
Pepe Reina has already conceded five goals in his side’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham and shock 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at Anfield on Monday.
But the Spanish goalkeeper believes that three consecutive wins would put Liverpool right back in the race for the championship.
"The fans can trust us until the end because as a team we have always been strong," Reina said.
"Obviously we are disappointed because it is not normal for us to play three games and lose two of them, but we have to look forward, try to improve and carry on with our title challenge.
"We are the same team as last season – the same team that won 86 points in the league.
"Nothing has changed except that some players have left and some have come in, but we are still a strong team.
"We have plenty of good players in the dressing room and we have to look forward because as soon as we win two or three games in a row things will change a lot."
Liverpool picked up an impressive total of 86 points last season but Reina believes that improvements by Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa will make it a more open division this time around.
And he feels that will translate to the champions requiring fewer points this season.
He added: "Teams like Villa, Tottenham and Man City will be involved in the title race and I think the eventual champions will probably win no more than 82 points this season.
"Tottenham are playing at a good level. They were probably better than us in the first game of the season, especially in the first half.
"But it is too early to speak about teams. We have to wait a little bit longer."
The Reds are still without Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani due to an ankle problem, but Greek defender Sotiros Kygiakos could make his debut after joining from AEK Athens last week.
Bolton have started the season with two defeats – to Sunderland and Hull – and have not managed to score.
Defender Gary Cahill is hopeful that his team’s improvements in performances will be translated into results following the 1-0 League Cup win over League One Tranmere in midweek.
He said: "We were better against Hull and kept a clean sheet against Tranmere.
"We’re at home and they’ll be hungry. They’ve lost two out of three which is poor for them and they’ll be looking to make that right.
"We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. They’re coming in needing to win to put their season back on track.
"It’s unheard of them starting this slowly. They’ve got quality players throughout but two teams have beaten them already so why can’t we?"