London - Liverpool
lived up to their billing as the biggest threat to Manchester City
retaining the Premier League title as both sides shone on the opening
weekend of the season.
So often outgunned by the oil wealth of Abu Dhabi backed City or
commercial giants Manchester United in recent years, Liverpool were the
biggest spenders from the world's richest league this summer with a
reported £170 million splurge in the transfer market.
The first return on that investment came in Sunday's 4-0 thrashing of
a limited West Ham that even Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted
"are not the Uniteds or Citys."
City showed just what a task overturning a 25-point deficit last
season will be for Liverpool in outclassing Arsenal in a 2-0 win at the
Emirates despite a far more disrupted preparation for the campaign due
to the World Cup commitments of most of their squad.
On the contrary, Liverpool have benefited from Mohamed Salah and
Sadio Mane's early exits in Russia with Egypt and Senegal as they
returned in time to join the club's pre-season tour of the United
Salah started where he left off from an incredible 44-goal debut
campaign at Anfield by opening the scoring before Mane struck twice and
Daniel Sturridge added a late fourth.
Klopp conceded it had been
impossible to ignore the excitement and expectation among the club's
fans that a near three-decade wait to win the league could come to an
end in May.
That hype is because Liverpool have built from a position of
strength. After reaching the Champions League final last season, key
areas of the team have been bolstered.
Midfielder Naby Keita was a bundle of energy and the star performer
of the new boys that showed why Liverpool were willing to shell out
£52.75m and wait a year for the Guinean after agreeing a deal with
Leipzig last summer.
"You can only imagine how good he's going to be with more time," said Liverpool midfielder James Milner.
Finding the net is nothing new for Klopp on opening day. His side
scored four at Arsenal in 2016 and three at Watford last season, but
also conceded three on both occasions.
As he was quick to point out, the clean sheet was just as pleasing as his side's attacking play.
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, signed for £65 million from Roma, was
rarely troubled, but looked assured in starting attacks from the back,
while Virgil van Dijk was imperious in sniffing out any sense of danger.
Liverpool beat City in three of their four meetings last season, but
the key to a title challenge will be a consistency Klopp has so far
failed to nail in nearly three years in charge.
The German, though, now has a wealth of options never previously
afforded to him as evidenced by the sight of new signings Fabinho and
Xherdan Shaqiri plus England internationals Jordan Henderson and Adam
Lallana on the bench on Sunday.
"I am not blind. I can see them and I can read the line-up and see
then who is on the bench," said Klopp when quizzed if he will have a
difficult balancing act to keep all of his squad engaged over the
"The plan is they are all happy because they played an important part in our season, so from my point of view all good."
Despite the positivity and investment, Klopp has insisted Liverpool remain just the challenger to champions City.
"We are still Rocky Balboa, not Ivan Drago,” he said on the eve of
the season, invoking the underdog spirit of the fictional American
No knockout blows have yet been landed, but Liverpool have come out swinging.