With 20 games into the new Premier League season, Liverpool’s title credentials seem to be genuine. They appear to have put their last season’s dismal campaign behind them. About a year ago the Reds were languishing in 7th place and were looking clueless as they found themselves 14 points behind league leaders Arsenal. Fast forward to today, they are sitting at the top of the table and are looking more relentless than ever.
It has been a remarkable turnaround from Klopp’s men, but it remains to be seen whether they can hold on to lift the Premier League title in May. Only time will tell whether they have the pedigree to hold on to their lead, but one thing is for certain Liverpool’s title credentials are going to face a stiffer challenge as we approach the business end of the season.
AFCON and AFC Asian Cup to test Liverpool’s title credentials
The biggest test for Liverpool’s title credentials is going to be coping without their talisman, Muhammad Salah. The Egyptian is going to miss a big chunk of games for Liverpool as he flies off to represent his country in the 2024 African Cup of Nations. The 31-year-old has been an integral part of all the success that Liverpool have enjoyed over the last decade. His absence will surely be a huge loss for the Reds.
The last time he took part in the AFCON was in 2022 when Liverpool had to cope without him and Sadio Mane. Klopp’s men managed to do well as they won five out of the six games that they played without their star players. Unlike that season the Reds have a more potent attack this time. With Jota, Nunez, and Gakpo at his disposal, Jurgen Klopp would be hoping to do much better than he did in 2022.
Apart from Salah, Wataru Endo is another man who will be unavailable for a few weeks for Liverpool. The Japanese international will be leading his country at the 2024 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. Despite securing the signatures of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai in the summer, Liverpool was still missing a defensive-minded midfielder in their side.
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Hence, Klopp turned his attention towards the highly rated pair of Romeo Lavia, and Moises Caicedo. Unfortunately, despite reaching an agreement with their respective clubs both the players refused to move to Anfield. As a result, Klopp opted to sign Endo from Stuttgart raising plenty of eyebrows.
The 30-year-old has proven his doubters wrong by putting in brilliant performances in the middle of the pitch for Liverpool. He has been one of the driving forces behind Liverpool’s title charge this season. The Reds have let in 18 goals this season in the Premier League, but only four of them were conceded when Endo was on the pitch.
With the Japanese captain’s absence, Liverpool’s midfielders have certainly got their work cut out for them. The likes of Jones, Mac Allister, and Sobozlai will have to up their game defensively to keep their sides’ title hopes alive.
Manchester City and Kevin De Bruyne’s threat
Since Pep Guardiola took charge of Manchester City in 2016, the English club has ascended to new heights and set up high standards. Such has been their dominance that they have been crowned the Premier League champions five times in the last six seasons. Given that track record, it is safe to say they are surely going to put Liverpool’s title credentials into jeopardy.
The Cityzens have failed to replicate their performances from last season. They have already dropped 13 points in the Premier League this season as compared to the 20 points that they dropped during the entirety of last season. Hence, they find themselves in second spot in the Premier League table. One of the reasons behind their struggles has been the unavailability of their star man, Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgian international limped off with a hamstring injury during the opening game of the season against Burnley. That injury kept him out for over 4 months. The dynamic playmaker has over 100 assists to his name in the Premier League and is a key part of Guardiola’s tactics. So, it was always going to be tough to cope without him.
The 31-year-old finally made his return to the Premier League against Newcastle United over the weekend. He came on as a second-half substitute and instantly showed why City fans missed him so dearly. Manchester City once again found themselves in a state of bother as they were trailing Newcastle United by 2-1.
De Bruyne was subbed in the 69th minute of the game and five minutes later he scored the equalizer for his side. In stoppage time he found Oscar Bobb in the penalty area with a sumptuous lobbed pass who finished calmly to win the game for Manchester City.
With Kevin De Bruyne back in the squad, Pep Guardiola’s side looks like a completely different proposition. As a result, Liverpool cannot afford any more slip-ups from now on and Jurgen Klopp would be wary of this fact. Football fans are about to witness another mouth-watering title race as two great sides go head-to-head against each other over the next 3 to 4 months.