Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says Manchester City would not have won the Premier League this season if they had to deal with his side’s injury crisis.
Influential centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez missed most of the season with knee injuries.
Fellow defender Joel Matip, midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson and new signing Diogo Jota were among those to also miss large parts of the campaign.
“With our injuries it was not the year to become champions,” Klopp said.
“No chance – for nobody.
“As good as they are, if City have their three centre-halves out, no [they don’t win the league]. Three centre-halves of [Manchester] United, no.
“We have fought back a bit, accepted the difficulties and made the best of it, and if we win on Sunday, and if we qualify for the Champions League, then we made the best of it. That is it.”
Despite being top of the table at Christmas, the impact of the injuries eventually caught up with Klopp’s side.
But they have bounced back, with seven victories in nine matches meaning that if they win their final match at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday they should qualify for the Champions League.
During their title-winning campaign last season Klopp frequently hailed his players as “mentality monsters”.
“It is clear we wouldn’t come to this situation if the boys wouldn’t have showed this kind of character. They have very special character,” he added.
“The boys proved it now millions of times, it’s not about their mentality or character if something has gone wrong.
“Going through tough periods makes you stronger as a unit and in that time we didn’t get distracted. Nothing came between us.
“Yes we had our moments, players were not in the best shape or the best mood. I was not in the best mood, but we always found a way to stick together.
“We never blamed each other or pointed a finger at each other and said, ‘It is because of you or you’.
So whatever happens on Sunday, we found our way out to bring us to this situation.”