Despite the impressive form of Liverpool last season many people still felt that the Premier League title was Manchester City’s to lose and that the Reds would be pushing them but would really only be contesting second place with Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs.
Liverpool were neck and neck with City coming into the festive period with the Reds holding a slim one point advantage. How things can change over the course of 2 games.
The festive period started with Liverpool playing first and they took full advantage and beat a tough Wolves side 2-0 away to extend their lead to 4 points.
Man City played Crystal Palace the next day and no-one would have expected the outcome as Roy Hodgson managed a stunning 3-2 win at the Etihad inflicting City’s first loss in the Premier League this season.
To think that at one point early on in the campaign Jurgen Klopp’s side were quoted at 9-4 with the bookies and had slipped to 11/4 to win the League title with this bookmaker at the beginning of November when after 10 games played they were 2 points behind Man City who had won 9 games and drawn only 1 game while Liverpool had won 8 games and drawn 2 games.
Now following their second festive win over Newcastle yesterday coupled with Man City’s second loss in as many games as they lost again to Leicester City 2-1 away, Liverpool now enjoy a stunning 7 point lead over Man City who have slipped to third with Tottenham now second 6 points behind the reds.
The bookies have clearly taken notice that Liverpool are for real as they are now available with several of the bookies at an ever shortening price of 5/6 for the title according to Oddschecker while Manchester City have slipped to 9/5 with a number of bookmakers with Spurs the third favourite and Chelsea the fourth favourite.
Chelsea of course were third favourites back in November when Mauricio Sarri’s side were only 2 points behind Liverpool but a key match down the road will be the return fixture against Sarri’s side as Chelsea were the first team to inflict a defeat on Liverpool which was in the Carabao Cup but they followed it up with a draw in the League at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool look to now be on cruise control but things can change very quickly as they do face Arsenal next with the key away fixture vs Man City away to follow so within a week they could be tied with Tottenham if the Reds were to lose both games and Man City would be only a point behind them assuming both of Liverpool’s rivals win both games.
So City look to be imploding and they face an away trip to face the much improved Southampton side under Ralph Hasenhüttl next so a win is by no means assured although you would expect Pep Guardiola to get a reaction from his side and register a win.
Liverpool face Arsenal next in a repeat of the real heavyweight clash at the beginning of November where many thought Arsenal were the better side on a day when Liverpool were not at their best.
The formation of Salah upfront with Sane and Shaqiri on the wings with Firminio in the number 10 role was electric against Newcastle and of course both Fabinho and Alisson made huge contributions to the win showing just how successful Jurgen Klopp’s transfer business was in the summer with the additions of Naby Keita plus the aforementioned Shaqiri, Fabinho and Alisson.
The impact of Virgil Van Dijk however has arguably been the most important addition of the year as he has turned Liverpool into a tight defensive unit which means the team do not need to score 3 or more goals in every game to win.
Those four players plus the big improvement from the likes of Gomez, Robertson, Firminio and pretty much the entire playing staff looks to be paying big dividends for Klopp as the whole squad seems happy with perhaps the exception of the frustrated and only 4 times played Alberto Moreno and also Divick Origi who has only played in 3 games but crucially did grab the winner in the merseyside derby.
So the Reds are deservedly now favourites for the Premier League but they cannot afford to get complacent as there are many games ahead including half of the Premier League season and the resumption of the Champions League with the match against Bayern Munich plus they have their first FA Cup tie against Wolves at Molineux to contend with.
Liverpool were top at Christmas which should virtually guarantee them the title according to history but they will be taking nothing for granted as they look to win their 19th title and their first for 28 years.
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