Liverpool are the Underdogs in This Season's Title Race - But That Suits Them

It's not very often that a team can win the Premier League by the biggest points margin ever, and still go into the following season as firm second-favourites.

But a bizarre set of circumstances means that is exactly where Liverpool find themselves.

It's no real mystery. The weird, post-lockdown, behind-closed-doors cooling off period was no more than a formality for the Reds, who in reality had the title gift-wrapped in March. Yet their form - patchy by their massive standards - compounded some of the perceived weaknesses that had been exposed earlier in the year.

The turning point for Manchester City, meanwhile, came a week after they formally handed the title to Jurgen Klopp's team. Their 4-0 victory over the Reds was taken as a statement of resolute intent, and it would be one of six games over June and July in which they scored four or more goals to no reply.

Throw into the frame the irrational negativity emanating from the social media faithful at Anfield, and you can begin to see why bookmakers don't fancy the champs to retain.

Will Klopp mind that, though? Not one bit.

The Reds' underdog status, after all, has provided a huge assist in their climb to the top of the mountain. So much of their motivation has been about proving people wrong, defying the odds, thumbing their nose at public perception and doing what they've been told they cannot. Klopp once famously coined the term 'heavy metal football', but since he arrived at Liverpool, their ethos has been defiantly punk rock.

The fact that he can lean into that once more as his team look to attack the title again - starting with Leeds on Saturday evening - will be music to his ears.

As much as we can wax lyrical about Liverpool's inclination to crash the party and send the status quo packing, however, it's worth remembering that they are still the best team in England. And while it would be highly surprising if 2020/21 was to finish with them 18 clear at the top of the division, it's City who have work to do to get onto their level - not vice versa.

Much of the widespread confidence in their ability to dethrone the Reds at the first time of asking stems from their rampant run of victories post-lockdown, but six of their eight league wins came after the title was won, with nothing but pride on the line. They lost to Chelsea in the game that could have delayed Liverpool's coronation, while they were shown up by Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Cup semi finals.

There is a demonstrable weakness to Pep Guardiola's team when the pressure is on, and that will need to be eradicated if they are to stand any chance of fulfilling the expectations thrust on them by the public.

In the breathtaking blur of Premier League football that took place over June and July, it seems to have been forgotten what actually won Liverpool the league for the first time in 30 years. It was their intangible, relentless ability to win, no matter the circumstances.

They had, and still have, a strong group mentality. It was them against the world, and that mindset yielded a deep-rooted self-belief and unswerving tenacity that consistently got them over the line - often in games they had no right to win.

Balance of probabilities would suggest that train will run out of steam at some point, and under normal circumstances, you could perhaps point to complacency as a source of their impending downfall.

Frequent suggestions that this season's title belongs to City, however, ensure the Reds remain where they are comfortable.

For Klopp, Iron Maiden are out, and The Clash are in. They ran the show last year, but Liverpool are still punching up with their feet on the ground.

Source : 90min