Even the most pessimistic Liverpool supporter seemed confident that the Reds would have far too much to see off Luton on Sunday afternoon, and for good reason.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have been in excellent form, shining at home in the Premier League and also progressing nicely in the Europa League and Carabao Cup, while their opponents have looked like relegation fodder since their return to the top flight.
From the off at Kenilworth Road, however, you could sense that Liverpool weren’t at the races, and while they created enough chances to win the match – Darwin Nuñez, you’re killing me! – they never played well enough to merit all three points.
While Luis Diaz's late, and extremely touching, equaliser did enough to prevent the Reds from experiencing one of their worst-ever Premier League results, there was still no denying that these were two huge points dropped in the title race.
The problem is, this type of performance is becoming the norm in matches of this ilk, and Liverpool have no hope of going toe-to-toe with Man City, and others for that matter, if this keeps happening.
At Anfield, Klopp’s side have continued to be imperious this season, swatting aside dangerous teams such as Aston Villa and West Ham with ease, not to mention seeing off Everton with relative ease in the Merseyside derby.
In the big games, Liverpool have also handled themselves well on the whole, coming from behind to beat Newcastle in memorable fashion at St James’ Park, as well as outplaying Tottenham on their own turf before being robbed by horrific refereeing.
It is games away to lesser, relegation-threatened teams that are hugely disappointing, though, and the Luton draw had all the familiar trends on show, on a desperately frustrating afternoon.
The Reds made a trademark slow start, allowing the crowd to grow in belief, and they constantly looked susceptible on the counter-attack as soon as possession was lost, as highlighted with Luton’s goal late on.
Alexis Mac Allister continues to struggle as a No.6, lacking the pace and natural defensive brain to excel there – in fairness, it’s not his fault that he is being played out of position – and even Dominik Szoboszlai didn’t seem at the races by his high standards, finding himself substituted in the second half.
In attack, there was a real lack of cohesion on show, with Mohamed Salah bordering on anonymous from start to finish, Diogo Jota’s inclusion meaning Liverpool lacked natural width on the left, and Nuñez lively but horribly wasteful leading the line.
Sure, on another day the Uruguayan would have tapped home his almost-impossible-to-miss chance and Liverpool would likely have won the game, but either way, the Reds are unconvincing and lethargic far too often in matches they are expected to win on their travels.
Since October 2021, when a Salah-inspired Liverpool won 5-0 away to Watford, Klopp’s team have failed to win away to a newly-promoted side, and while that may only actually be a tally of four matches, it is still concerning.
The losses at Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth last season were particularly galling experiences, and Sunday’s trip to Luton was seconds away from being the same.
There was also the grim display at newcomers Fulham on the opening weekend of 2022/23 – one that saw Liverpool undeservedly pick up a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.
Wolves are another team who could potentially finish low down this season and Liverpool needed two late goals to overcome them back in September, and Brighton outplayed the Merseysiders at the Amex Stadium, arguably meriting three points instead of one.
The Seagulls are admittedly a good team who could finish in the top seven or eight come May, but the same issues were on show on the south coast, and there are countless other examples to use over the past 18 months or so.
There is no need for a giant overreaction after these latest dropped points, even if this may feel like one, with Liverpool still looking like an excellent team this season, but any title talk realistically needs to be put on hold for now.
You can’t be slipping up in these fixtures if you want to stay in touch with a City side who invariably win the vast majority of their games after Christmas, and the Reds are struggling to even dominate these matches and have full control in them.
Is it a mental issue, in terms of taking these opponents for granted? Quite possibly.
Whatever it is, it needs to be addressed on the training ground.
Klopp certainly deserves an element of criticism for failing to prevent the same mistakes from happening. In hindsight, why did he start Salah and Szoboszlai at Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup last week? We must see big improvements if there is to be any chance of a title tilt as the campaign progresses.
Liverpool's next away match is a trip to City on 25 November. If they start that one slowly, look open on the break and fail to both gel and be ruthless in the final third, it could be a very long afternoon.
There is so much to love about the Reds right now, but they don't half leave you tearing your hair out with a lot of these limp away day outings against the Premier League's strugglers.