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Liverpool raise bar for EPL title rivals

kriralok desk:

Liverpool are only three games into their Premier League title defence but their stuttering rivals must get their acts together if they are going to prevent an Anfield procession.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have answered any questions about their appetite for more success after winning the club’s first English title for 30 years.

Following their chaotic opening win against Leeds, Liverpool have reeled off a pair of impressive victories against Chelsea and Arsenal to extend their perfect start to the season.

A slightly below-par defensive effort against Leeds seems to have sharpened Liverpool’s focus.

They were back to their ruthless best as they dispatched big-spending Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before brushing aside Arsenal after the Gunners had the temerity to take the lead at Anfield.

Arsenal exacted some form of revenge by winning 5-4 on penalties in the League Cup on Thursday evening, but Klopp will not lose much sleep over exiting that particular tournament. He has bigger fish to fry.

The additions of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota have given Liverpool even more thrust and poise in midfield and attack — an ominous thought given the Reds scored 85 goals in 38 league games last season.

Ahead of their trip to Aston Villa on Sunday, Klopp insisted he expects Liverpool to be pushed all the way to the finish line.

“It’s an open race, Chelsea will be there, United will be there, Arsenal, Tottenham, these teams will always be there,” said Klopp.

“There are tough moments for us and other teams and it’s about how you react and are you doing it in the right way?

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to go through a lot of moments. I have no idea who will win but I know a lot of teams will try.”

But, in private, Klopp must be well aware that Liverpool’s bid to successfully defend the title for the first time since 1984 will be greatly enhanced if their challengers cannot address their own shortcomings.

Fatal flaws

Manchester City finished 18 points behind Liverpool in second place last term and the early signs suggest they have not done enough to close the gap.

While it was only one match, last Sunday’s embarrassing 5-2 home defeat against Leicester exposed several of the problems that contributed to the end of City’s two-year reign as champions.

Pep Guardiola’s swoop for Benfica centre-back Ruben Dias this week was a damning admission that the close-season signing of Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake alone was not enough to plug the holes in his leaky defence.

A lack of cutting edge proved fatal in City’s shock Champions League quarter-final loss to Lyon last season. With Sergio Aguero still recovering from knee surgery, City again failed to turn territorial dominance into a knockout blow against Leicester.

If City, who face an intriguing clash at Leeds on Saturday, look compromised, the same can be said for Manchester United after their erratic start.

Beaten 3-1 by Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in a woeful opening game, Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s side needed a 100th-minute penalty to escape Brighton with a 3-2 victory.

Solskjaer relied on the influence of Bruno Fernandes to revive United after the Portugal playmaker’s arrival from Sporting Lisbon in January, but it is the defence that looks most vulnerable at present.

Chelsea’s spending spree of nearly $300 million was supposed to help Frank Lampard’s men close the gap to Liverpool after they finished 33 points adrift last season.

In the early stages of integrating Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy, Lampard’s Chelsea laboured to victory at Brighton before being outclassed by Liverpool.

Fighting back from three goals down to draw at West Bromwich Albion was encouraging for their team spirit but a worrying sign of their defensive weakness.

Arsenal are clearly improved, but it is too early for Mikel Arteta’s FA Cup winners to overhaul Liverpool, while Tottenham’s squad look short of quality and depth.

That leaves Leicester, the early table-toppers after three successive wins, and Everton, who also have a 100 per cent record.

Yet even the most optimistic fans at the King Power Stadium and Goodison Park would surely struggle to see their teams finishing above the Liverpool machine.

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