Fixture release day is always eagerly anticipated. It provides the first dose of excitement for the new Premier League season, drawing a line under the old campaign and shifting the outlook to the next one. Fans are quick to scan the list for any tough periods, and on this occasion there is one set of Liverpool fixtures that really catches the eye. The run falls around Christmas, involving six games in an intense 22-day stretch. Such a challenge could be season-defining for Jürgen Klopp and his team, but there are reasons to be optimistic.

Liverpool kick off this tricky selection of festive fixtures at home to Aston Villa on December 11th, before welcoming Newcastle to Anfield on December 15th. While this is a relatively gentle start to the run, memories of Ollie Watkins running riot at Villa Park and Joe Willock netting a late Newcastle equaliser are still fresh in the mind. Both fall into the category of potential banana skins.

On the 18th December, the intensity is ratcheted up a notch with a visit to Spurs. Klopp has actually fared extremely well against the London club in the recent past, winning each of the last seven games in a run stretching back to 2018. Even so, a tough match has to be expected. The Boxing Day fixture is at home to Leeds, a game which certainly won’t allow for any Christmas festivities in the build-up. Marcelo Bielsa’s side are guaranteed to punish any tiredness in the squad, arguably making this the worst possible match to fall in the middle of such a busy period.

The tests keep on coming, with an away trip to Leicester just two days later. Asking the players to go again so soon after playing the division’s most intense side is almost cruel, especially when the opposition is a regular challenger for the European spots. To top off this Herculean run of tasks, Liverpool have to visit Chelsea on New Year’s Day. Top four rivals in 2020/21, both sides will be hoping that this meeting is more of a title clash — given the inevitable fatigue by this point, it might descend into an old-school contest of who wants it more.

Running through this period of fixtures in such a manner is enough to leave anyone reeling. However, there can be no doubt that Klopp will already be examining this part of the schedule methodically. He has been outspoken against the Christmas congestion in the past, but his record of navigating it is actually very good: the German knows the importance of a strong middle section to a campaign.

In the Bundesliga, two-thirds of teams who claim the title of “Herbstmeister” (top at the halfway stage) go on to win the league. This was the case for Klopp’s Dortmund in the 2010/11 season. In the Premier League, the mysticism around being “top at Christmas” actually only translates into a league win around half the time: nonetheless, it is clearly a good position to be in.

Remarkably, Klopp’s Liverpool occupied top spot as recently as New Year’s Day this year. The subsequent struggles make it easy to forget, but the German fended off a collapse until after the culmination of the festive schedule. The team went unbeaten throughout December: draws against Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle were certainly warning signs, but there were also 4-0 and 7-0 triumphs against Wolves and Crystal Palace, as well as a hard-fought win over Spurs.

In the title-winning 2019/20 season, Liverpool’s remarkable winning streak stretched from October 27th to February 29th. For this record to coincide with the hectic December run makes it all the more impressive, and gives an indication of how Klopp sets up his team to peak in this vital part of the season. 2018/19 provides yet more supporting evidence: Liverpool won all seven games in the final calendar month.

What is it about Klopp teams that excel in the busy Christmas season? For one thing, the manager builds sides which thrive on momentum. We have seen it on a micro scale within games, when the likes of Manchester City and Barcelona have been blown apart in mad, intense spells; it equally applies on a macro level, with confidence growing through a run where matches come thick and fast. Equally, given the fitness required to play in Liverpool’s system, the players are perhaps better equipped than some rivals to cope with the demands.

Whatever the reasons, there is no need for Liverpool fans to be unduly daunted by the tough-looking run of games around Christmas. It will present a challenge, but it is one that Klopp has risen to time and time again.