In the Premier League’s first major mind games move of the new campaign, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has named Chelsea as his favourites to win the title this season.
The big-spending Blues moved to the top of the table on Saturday evening after they came from behind to beat Leeds 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, though Frank Lampard’s team were pushed back into third spot after new leaders Tottenham and defending champions Liverpool both won 24 hours later.
Armed with a run of eight wins from nine games and a 13-match unbeaten run in all competitions, Chelsea wield a potent mix of confidence and momentum at present however, and Klopp says he believes the Londoners are the ones to watch in 2020/21.
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Klopp keen on Chelsea
Speaking before the Reds’ emphatic 4-0 battering of Wolves in front of 2,000 supporters at Anfield on Sunday evening, Klopp said:
“If I watch games then I see that Tottenham are obviously doing pretty well, that Chelsea for me in the moment look like the favourites.
“They have the bigger squad, great players, they’re playing well. Now they are full on and have unbelievable opportunities to change [the team] between the games and from one game to the other. That’s it.
“Pressure is there but it’s about yourself. It’s always like this. It’s much too early to think about who is ahead of who or whatever. It’s just the situation.
Liverpool toppled their title rivals at Stamford Bridge in September when the Reds’ took full advantage of Andreas Christensen’s first half dismissal to storm to a 2-0 win in the capital thanks to a Sadio Mane brace.
The return fixture between the silverware chasing sides isn’t scheduled to take place until late March when Liverpool welcome Chelsea to Anfield in what could prove a Premier League title six-pointer.
Chelsea’s spending gives them an edge
In a condensed campaign where success could be defined by who picks up the fewest injuries, Chelsea’s aggressive summer recruitment campaign could give them the edge over their rivals in terms of squad options and cover this season.
The Blues splashed out an eye-watering £222.4m on new players in the transfer window to fuel their push for trophies in 2020/21, in a summer splurge that left their rivals in the dust.
Chelsea, in fact, spent more money than Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal combined during their massive shopping spree, though their enormous outlay already looks like it’s paying dividends.
German duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner were drafted in from Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig respectively during the Blues’ pursuit of personnel, while continental reinforcements were also brought to England from the Netherlands and France in the form of winger Hakim Ziyech and keeper Edouard Mendy.
England international defender Ben Chilwell was also acquired from Leicester City for a fee close to $50m, while Thiago Silva was also wrangled from French big hitters PSG on a free transfer.
With Lampard’s plans for success fully backed by Roman Abramovich, Chelsea entered the new season with an abundance of quality and depth (see table below), and their results have reflected that.
Chelsea’s testing schedule
With talk of a possible title tilt intensifying, Chelsea are about to enter a tough looking gauntlet of fixtures between now and Boxing Day.
The Blues’ difficult streak includes three away games in four matches, with encounters with Everton at Goodison Park, Wolves at Molineux and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium to come between their servings of turkey.
A London derby with West Ham is Chelsea’s only assignment at Stamford Bridge between now and the far side of the festivities, and it will be fascinating to see how the Blues cope with such a taxing schedule.
Last season, Chelsea took six points from the 12 on offer in the corresponding fixtures after they were beaten 3-1 on Merseyside by Everton and 1-0 at home by West Ham.
Lampard masterminded 5-2 and 2-1 victories at Wolves and Arsenal respectively last term, though the ex-England international will be targeting a bigger overhaul haul from the same quartet of games this time around to keep Chelsea in the title hunt.
In terms of the bigger picture, Chelsea still have questions to answer about their longer-term consistency, but while Jurgen Klopp’s assertations might have been a transparent attempt to transfer pressure from his team to a possible rival, Frank Lampard’s side should definitely be part of any Premier League title chase conversation.
Other Premier League title contenders and odds
Defending champions and – despite Klopp’s claim to the contrary – favourites to reclaim their crown, Liverpool demolished Wolves 4-0 at Anfield on Sunday evening in a statement performance that should set knees wobbling elsewhere in the division.
The Reds, who are unbeaten in seven Premier League games, have been making light of their injury crisis of late, and with their sparkling frontline beginning to find their groove, the Merseysiders are expected to go from strength to strength.
A favourable run of fixtures between now and the New Year makes Liverpool a solid bet to enter mid-January as the league leaders, and Jurgen Klopp’s relentless red machine should prove tough to stop between now and next May.
Despite a less than convincing start to the season, Manchester City continue to lurk menacingly on the periphery of the action, and though they are currently flying under the radar, the Citizens can close to within three points of top spot with a victory in their game in hand.
City’s performance in their 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday was in keeping with the rest of their flat Premier League displays since the summer, though the identity of their goalscorers at the Etihad Stadium was significant.
Both Raheem Sterling (five games) and Kevin de Bruyne (seven games) ended uncharacteristically lengthy barren spells in the league against the Cottagers, and City will need that pair of match-defining superstars to kick on if they are to mount a challenge to Liverpool’s supremacy.
Mourinho-ball won’t win any prizes for aesthetics, though the Portuguese manager’s reductive tactics are certainly winning a lot of points for early pace setters Tottenham.
Spurs counter-attacked their way to glory again on Sunday in their 2-0 North London derby triumph over bitter rivals Arsenal – a victory that pushed Tottenham’s unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine contests.
A recent return of seven points from nine in games against Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal will have emboldened Mourinho and given him plenty of evidence to point to in his attempts to make his players buy in to his footballing philosophy.
Keeping star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min injury free remains pivotal to their chances, and though Spurs look capable of staying among the front runners for the duration of the 2020/21 campaign, a more expansive approach to their play could eventually be required when the going gets really tough.