Can Anyone Actually Challenge Liverpool This Season?


Last season wasn’t much of a pulse-raiser for the neutrals. Throughout the campaign, Liverpool dominated the Premier League, with the biggest threat to their title ambitions being the COVID-19 pandemic. It was, all things considered, a bit boring.

The beginning of the 2020/21 season gave the watching fans hope of an enthralling title race this time around. Jurgen Klopp’s men showed some signs of weakness after a humbling 7-2 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa, before star defender Virgil van Dijk picked up a season-ending injury.

But alas, the Reds recovered in fine fashion. The last week has seen them secure a vital late win over Tottenham Hotspur, as well as a dominant 7-0 victory against Crystal Palace, leaving them four points clear at the top of the table on Christmas day.

So, are we in for another one horse race? Is there anyone who can realistically stop Liverpool from winning a second successive title? Let’s have a look.

Tottenham Hotspur

Kane and Son have been in inspired form this season

Current Position: 6th

Points From Top: 6

This time last week, Tottenham Hotspur looked like the most likely challengers to Liverpool’s throne. They were ahead of the Reds on goal difference, going into a crucial game at Anfield.

However, a nightmare week has seen Spurs slip down the table, and they now find themselves in sixth place. A late header by Roberto Firmino condemned them to defeat at Anfield, while they were the architects of their own downfall at home to Leicester City.

It would perhaps be unwise to rule out Spurs just yet. After all, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son have been arguably the two best players in the league this season. However, Jose Mourinho’s side are worryingly dependent on those two right now. An injury or a drop in form for either may effectively end their title hopes.

Tottenham face Liverpool again in January, and they have a favourable run of fixtures before that meeting. If they can gather some momentum in the lead up to that game, then they may just get themselves back among the contenders.

Manchester United

Man Utd have recovered from a poor start to the season

Current Position: 3rd

Points From Top: 5 (with a game in hand)

After accumulating just seven points from their opening six games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job looked unstable. However, a recent resurgence has left the Red Devils as arguably the biggest threat to Liverpool.

When Manchester United get going, they look absolutely unstoppable. The likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial can tear apart any team when they’re all in sync. And, in the last few games, they’ve been at their best, picking up 19 points from a possible 21.

However, since Solskjaer took over, Man Utd have been notoriously streaky. They can win eight games in a row, and then just as easily fail to win in the next six. It remains to be seen whether they can keep up their current form for an extended period of time.

Another concern for the 20-time champions will be how often they fall behind in games. From their 13 league games, they have been losing in nine of them. They have come back to win in six of these games, which shows that they have the right attitude. However, it simply isn’t sustainable over a 38-game season. They will have to fix this if they want to launch a serious title charge.

Manchester City

Man City are yet to hit the heights of before

Current Position: 8th

Points From Top: 8 (with a game in hand)

As long as Manchester City have a squad of superstars and a manager like Pep Guardiola in charge, they will always be considered title contenders.

But, over the last 18 months, the Cityzens have lost their way, and no longer look like the juggernaut that they used to be. For example, from 17/18 to 18/19, they won 84% of their league games. Since then, their win percentage has been just short of 63%, and this season they’ve dropped points in over half of their fixtures.

Obviously, the departures of David Silva, Vincent Kompany, and Leroy Sane have had an impact, as well as Sergio Aguero’s injury troubles. Belgian star Kevin De Bruyne may have stepped up in their absence, but not enough of his teammates are pulling their weight.

There is no doubt that Man City have a supremely talented squad. If Guardiola can get them back to the levels they were at two years ago, then they should be genuine challengers again.

Chelsea

Chelsea were the summer’s biggest spenders

Current Position: 5th

Points From Top: 6

When Chelsea brought in £200m worth of recruitments in the summer transfer window, plenty of fans were picking them for the trophy.

While some of these signings have looked like shrewd business, others are yet to get going. Timo Werner is yet to replicate the form he showed in the Bundesliga, while Kai Havertz looks completely lost.

Buying from overseas is always a risky move, and it can take time for players to settle in at a new club. There’s no denying the talent of Havertz and Werner, and they may turn out to be inspired buys if given time. If they can hit their best form soon, then it wouldn’t be too late for them to contest for the crown.

As many of Lampard’s critics have pointed out, the Blues tend to struggle up against the league’s bigger sides. Their victory against West Ham United last time out was the first time they had beaten a top half team this term. Is this just a coincidence? Or are they flat-track bullies? I guess we’ll see, but their results against the top sides will need to improve.

Leicester City

Jamie Vardy
Vardy is once again among the Golden Boot contenders

Current Position: 2nd

Points From Top: 4

They’ve pulled off one miracle before. Let’s see if they can do it again.

Brendan Rodgers has got his side playing some fantastic football, and they have the results to match, sitting in second place. Star striker Jamie Vardy, who turns 34 in under a month, is showing no signs of ageing, scoring 11 goals this season – only Mohamed Salah has more.

The Foxes’ away form has been particularly impressive, winning six out of a possible seven, scoring 17 in the process.

Of course, there are two sides to that coin. Their home form has not been so hot, losing four of their seven outings at the King Power Stadium, including against relegation strugglers Fulham.

Nonetheless, if they can reproduce their away form at home, then they will give themselves a chance of recreating their 2015/16 season.

Other Outsiders

Aston Villa have recovered after narrowly avoiding relegation last season

Are there any other realistic candidates for the Premier League title?

Well, Everton currently sit in fourth place, having recovered from a poor spell with three consecutive wins. And, with a manager as decorated as Carlo Ancelotti, is it completely out of the question?

Aston Villa are nine points off the summit, having played two games fewer than the rest of the league. We’ve already seen them dismantle Liverpool once this season. With a player like Jack Grealish in your side, anything is possible.

Maybe the wildest of football fans wouldn’t quite rule out Southampton just yet. The Saints are in seventh, just one point behind Chelsea and Tottenham, and a point above Man City. It will take something supernatural for Southampton to win the league, but Ralph Hassenhuttl has got them firing.

Are any of these in a position to launch a title charge? No, probably not. But hey, it’s football – it wouldn’t be the craziest thing we’ve seen.