…Liverpool impress but facing spell without Mohamed Salah
WITH the highest expected goals in Premier League history and the joint-highest shots on goal this season, Liverpool are clicking into gear and developing into serious title challengers.
A busy summer transfer window, where they effectively rebuilt their midfield after the departures of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, meant manager Jurgen Klopp probably did not expect his side to be top of the table on the opening day of 2024.
But, after only one defeat in their opening 20 games, they are.
A 4-2 win over Newcastle in a relentless and chaotic game, amid the wild rain and wind at Anfield, leaves Liverpool with a three-point lead over second-placed Aston Villa.
They are five points clear of defending champions Manchester City, who have a game in hand, and Arsenal.
“That is Liverpool’s best performance of the season,” said former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports.
“Massive for Liverpool. Big result. That performance was absolutely outstanding.
“There’s been a lot of Premier League seasons but I can’t think of too many that have been as thrilling at the halfway stage as we have now, and so many teams in the title race.”
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville said: “If you told Klopp at the start of the season that they would be a few points clear at the top, they wouldn’t have believed, but now they can start to believe.
“They are potential champions just because of where they are. Their manager is a sensational manager who knows how to do it and they’ve got three or four players that are world-class.
“If they get into that run-in, they’ll probably be the one team that Manchester City don’t want against them because they know they’ve actually beat them before.”
Liverpool now face a run of fixtures without Mohamed Salah, who will go to the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt.
The final of that competition is on February 11, so if Egypt go all the way then Salah could miss eight games for Liverpool if they progress in the FA Cup.
That run includes Arsenal in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, and in the Premier League on February 4.
There is also the two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Fulham and league games against Bournemouth, Chelsea and Burnley.
Salah is Liverpool’s top scorer with 18 in all competitions this season. He has also set up eight goals for team-mates. –