Should Liverpool be the new title favourites?
Liverpool are the only team with a perfect record in the Premier League after four games but champions Manchester City remain the odds-on title favourites.
That shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise, City stormed to the title virtually unopposed two years ago but last season they finished just one point above the Reds.
City also strengthened over the summer by bringing in Rodri from Atletico Madrid and Jaoa Cancelo from Juventus, while Liverpool were quiet as manager Jurgen Klopp instead opted to sign a couple of prospects and a new back-up keeper in Adrian from West Ham.
Liverpool’s start looks ominous
City have brushed aside West Ham, Brighton and Bournemouth but they did drop two points against Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium.
While a draw against Spurs isn’t necessarily a bad result, there were a few aspects of that game that may concern the City faithful. The champions dominated throughout and managed 20 shots on goal to Spurs’ three – and both of the visitors’ attempts that were on target found the back of the net. The fact they allowed a Tottenham side who are yet to hit their stride this season to equalise twice should also be a worry, if not quite a red flag in these early stages of the season.
Liverpool have managed four wins in four attempts and came through their first test against a top-six rival with relative ease, as they downed Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield. The only performance that perhaps didn’t quite hit their high standards came in a 2-1 win at Southampton, but that came after playing 120 minutes in Turkish capital Istanbul to claim the Super Cup and in any case, they still managed to claim the three points.
Injuries may be an issue
Any team chasing glory needs a bit of luck on the injury front and both Liverpool and City have beeb dealt some early blows this season.
The Reds have lost keeper Alisson with a calf injury and no return date has been set as yet. Adrian is a solid deputy between the sticks, but Klopp will be desperate to have his number one back soon and goalkeeper coach John Achterberg has been encouraged by his progress.
City arguably have the bigger problems as key defender Aymeric Laporte faces a long stint on the sidelines following knee surgery. Forward Leroy Sane also has a knee injury and isn’t expected to return until February. Although not quite as crucial to the team as Laporte, Sane’s absence will be keenly felt should any of City’s other forwards pick up an injury in the first half of the season.
The head to head could be crucial
City took four points in their two meetings with Liverpool last season and ultimately that proved the difference as they landed the title by just a solitary point. Given how far ahead of the chasing pack these two are, combined with indifferent starts for the other members of the ‘big six’, it could well be a similar scenario this year.
The first meeting between the two title rivals will take place at Anfield on November 9 and the Manchester fixture takes place on April 4, and those two games will be huge in terms of who ends up as the champions.
Given that City are the two-time defending champions, they still deserve to be rated as the favourites, but Liverpool’s start to the season suggests we’re set for another close battle and 11/4 shots the Reds look to have been underestimated by the bookmakers.
Gareth Freeman is an experienced journalist who can offer in-depth knowledge on a host of sports, especially football, tennis, snooker and basketball.