Liverpool have made the perfect start to their Premier League campaign, bidding to secure a first top-flight league title since the 1989/1990 season, when Kenny Dalglish was at the helm.
Current boss, Jurgen Klopp, has guided his team to eight wins from their first eight games as the Reds, fresh from being crowned European Champions last season, boast a 100% record so far. Going into their game at Old Trafford, Liverpool enjoy an eight-point lead over current Premier League title holders, Manchester City, but now they must adapt to the pressure of holding their nerve when being so far ahead.
All eyes will be on Old Trafford to see if Manchester United can become the first team to take points off Liverpool. On form, such an outcome seems unlikely, even if ‘form goes out the window’ in derbies, but United have been terrible in the last few weeks, leading to growing speculation about Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s future and the wisdom of appointing him in the first place.
Manchester City will be looking for a favour from United, as a combination of City’s fragility and Liverpool’s impressive consistency has seen an incredible turnaround of power in English football in a relatively short space of time.
Obviously, it is too early in the season to start talking about it being Liverpool’s title to lose, or that City are giving up on the league to prioritise winning the Champions League, but if Liverpool win at Old Trafford to equal City’s Premier League record of 18 successive victories, there will be a gap of at least eight points at the top of the table with a quarter of the season gone. This would have been hard to predict last season, as only a point separated the top two teams after 38 games.
We sometimes look at the other leagues around Europe and scoff at the same winners year after year, and the big gaps between title challengers and the rest, but this season England is the exception to that rule.
Look around the rest of the bigger European leagues and the widest margin separating the top two is just two points. In Spain, just one win allows Barcelona to move ahead of Real Madrid, with a similar situation in France between Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain. Even in Scotland, Celtic are within a win of Rangers.
In Germany, Italy and Portugal only a single point splits first and second, while in the Dutch Eredivisie, Ajax and PSV Eindhoven are level on points.
The eight-point gap in England is right out on its own, and while the season is still in the early enough stages for Borussia Mönchengladbach to lead in Germany and the even more obscure sight of Famalicão being top of the table in Portugal, what is happening in the Premier League is quite extraordinary.
Liverpool have been here before though and much later in the season, but still managed to ‘let it slip’. The pressure will only grow, and it will be interesting to see how they respond after their first defeat – if it comes. But the lead they already have is putting City under a different type of pressure. Who blinks first?