Liverpool out to make title statement at Manchester City
Liverpool’s transfer window business has been hailed as some of the best among the leading clubs
London — Liverpool could hardly be in higher spirits as they set out on the short trip to Manchester City on Saturday hoping to make a strong case for their Premier League title prospects.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and neighbours Manchester United, with champions Chelsea, have already been installed as the trio most likely to contest the title, but optimism is surging on Merseyside after a free-scoring August.
A 4-0 thrashing of a compliant Arsenal side before the international break means Jürgen Klopp’s side have seven points from nine, during an opening period in which they also safely negotiated a Champions League playoff against Hoffenheim.
What is more, Liverpool’s transfer window business has been hailed as some of the best among the leading clubs.
Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah was rated by number-crunchers at the CIES Football Observatory as the bargain of the summer, after arriving in a deal worth a reported £36m from Roma and a goal on his debut plus strikes against Hoffenheim and Arsenal have quickly endeared him to Anfield’s faithful.
The deadline-day signing from Arsenal of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — a player Klopp believes can become a Liverpool great — adds more firepower to an attack already boasting Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino and which will soon be further boosted by the return from injury of Adam Lallana.
The rising stock of midfielder Jordan Henderson, who has captained England twice in the past week, and a superb goal for teenager Ben Woodburn on his Wales debut means the continued uncertainty surrounding Phillipe Coutinho and his desire to join Barcelona is a manageable distraction.
No wonder pundits are taking Liverpool seriously.
"I didn’t fancy Liverpool before the season started, but they’ve made some decent buys and kept Coutinho, which is a boost for them," former Manchester United great Ryan Giggs conceded this week. "After the business they’ve done, I’ve probably changed my mind and they will be in the mix."
Liverpool have a strong record against City — winning four of the past six league clashes — and last lost to them in the league three years ago. Last season, they took 20 points from their matches against Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, City, United and Arsenal — more than any other club — and the recent demolition of Arsenal maintained their form against the big clubs.
City, who also have seven points, have match-winners everywhere though, even if they will be without former Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling who was sent off for over-celebrating a last-gasp winner against Bournemouth last time out.
But Guardiola’s options are so numerous that Sergio Aguero was a substitute against Bourne-mouth and is likely to return.
Defensive worries remain despite a huge summer outlay and £50m right-back Kyle Walker will return from suspension with the unenviable task of trying to stop the rampaging runs of Mane — a battle that could determine which of the two title rivals will be celebrating.