LONDON: Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp are setting the Premier League pace and thrown down a challenge to their title rivals to try to keep up or, at least, within range. The Reds were below their best in beating struggling Cardiff 4-1 but winning when not playing well is important.
Manchester City can pull level on points and regain the lead on goal difference if they beat Tottenham at Wembley on Monday but that will not be a simple task against a Spurs team smarting after their disappointments in the Champions League.
Behind Liverpool and City come redeveloping Chelsea after their 4-0 win at Burnley and surprising Arsenal following their 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace. As for misfiring Manchester United, Jose Mourinho and his much-criticised squad are out of the title race altogether, despite defeating Everton 2-1.
Liverpool needed two goals in the last six minutes to kill off Cardiff. Mo Salah scored the first goal with the others coming from Sadio Mane (two) and substitute Xherdan Shaqiri.
Manager Klopp said: “It’s really important to stay on track. It’s unbelievable that five or six clubs have such a big number of points but it only makes it even more intense.”
Unbeaten Chelsea maintained their own pursuit at Burnley despite missing Eden Hazard for the first time this season through a back injury. He was not missed. Ross Barkley set up Alvaro Morata’s early opening goal, scored the second himself then set up a third for Willian.
Substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who scored a midweek hat-trick in the Europa League, added a fourth in stoppage time.
However manager Maurizio Sarri continues to insist that Chelsea are not title contenders this season.
He said: “For 10 minutes it was difficult at the beginning but then we played very well. I am very happy for Alvaro Morata and Loftus-Cheek again. Now we have a difficult game on Wednesday.”
Opponents in the League Cup are Derby which means a welcome back to Stamford Bridge for old hero Frank Lampard, manager of the second division outfit.
Arsenal, by contrast, made hard work of their visit to Palace. They recovered from 1-0 down and led briefly by 2-1. Both Palace goals were penalties converted by captain Luka Milojevic after fouls by Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka.
Arsenal levelled through a superb Xhaka free kick and went ahead though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang though the goal should have been disallowed because of a handball assist from Alexandre Lacazette. Mesut Ozil, after several superb performances, had one of his anonymous days. He threw down the captain’s armband in anger on being substituted just after the hour.
United owed victory to Frenchmen Paul Pogba (penalty) and Antony Martial while Everton responded, too late, through a Gylfi Sigurdsson spotkick. Their only realistic focus now is to finish in the top four and that will not be easy. Already they are five points behind Arsenal.