Liverpool will wade into uncharted waters when Leeds United travel to Anfield next week. 30 years of being the hunters rather than the hunted have come to an end - the pressure is now firmly on Jurgen Klopp and his team.
They've taken 206 points from 228 available since the beginning of 2018/19, but they will know they cannot afford to let their performance levels slip even slightly as they look to fend off the hounds. Each of their rivals have enjoyed more opulent transfer windows, and the competition will be tougher than ever before.
Klopp insists his team will 'attack rather than defend' their crown, and that may just be the mentality his troops have to deploy as they look to successfully retain the the trophy for the first time since 1984.
Liverpool are the top dogs now and there is nowhere to hide. Ahead of one of the most important seasons in their modern history, it's time to handle the heat, or get out of the kitchen.
Liverpool's hesitance to do any major business this summer has largely been pinned on the frugality of the board, but a major contributing factor has been Klopp's reluctance to upset the status quo that has returned his team to the top of the tree.
While the arrivals of Takumi Minamino and Kostas Tsimikas have offset the departures of a handful of fringe players, the core of the group has remained constant since the great recruitment drive of 2018, resulting in one of the most stable and cohesive squads in world football.
Personalities complement each other all over the squad and there is chemistry wherever you look. It's clear that, through continuity and long-term strategy, the Reds have created a meticulous balance of personalities.
The unswerving lack of any burdening egos has created the type of atmosphere that wins titles, and this has the potential to separate them from the chasing pack, who are each trying to build what Liverpool have perfected.
Wolves, Leicester, Sheffield United, Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham, Brighton, Crystal Palace. All might feel they did enough to beat Liverpool at one point last season, yet each were left wondering how on earth they lost.
Some have pointed to luck in the Reds' charge to the title, but you don't register a 77% win rate over a 100-game stretch through simple good fortune. No-one can explain it, but like Sir Alex Ferguson's dynastic Man Utd, Liverpool have an intangible knack of snatching victory from the jaws of mediocrity.
Klopp will be confident that Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and perhaps even Rhian Brewster can step up their game next season, but as things stand, there is a lack of truly reliable cover for Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.
There are similar issues defensively. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are as good a pairing as you'll find, but beyond that, the injury-prone Joel Matip is the only proven central defender. Tsimikas and Neco Williams are the backup full-backs, and how reliable they end up being remains to be seen.
It's not very often that a team goes into a new season off the back of a title win needing three points to build momentum, but a unique set of circumstances means that is where Liverpool find themselves.
They won the title so early that they had ample time for their bravado to fizzle out. While 2019/20 closed with wins over Chelsea and Newcastle, earlier results against Burnley, Arsenal and most notably Manchester City did some damage to their reputation as the most feared side in the country.
It's a long way from panic stations, but a slow start to next season could see real doubts start to creep in about their staying power at the top of the table.
He's not their most gifted player, he's not their most creative player, he's not even the loudest on the pitch, but Liverpool dropped more points in their eight league games without Jordan Henderson last season than they did in the 30 with him.
His influence is indisputable. He's an inspiring, driving presence that has given more to the club since Steven Gerrard's departure than any other player, and is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Having him back after missing half of the post-lockdown season will give Liverpool a welcome breath of fresh, fiery air.
Anyone with an affinity for Liverpool will know the dangers of counting the chickens before they hatch. We've been conditioned by trauma into caution and pragmatism, to prepare for the worst case scenario because you never know what's around the corner.
But, for one year only, to hell with it.
If there has ever been a season that the Reds can approach matchday one with confidence and optimism, then here it is. Last term, Liverpool were the best in England by a considerable distance, and while that may change over the next ten months, let's take a deep breath, swallow our instincts, and bet against it.
...but let's keep the 'we're gonna win the league chants' buried until at least March. Just in case.
Prediction: Likely Champions
Source : 90min