Reds head to Villa shorn of Covid-infected pair

Reds head to Villa shorn of Covid-infected pair

LONDON • Liverpool are only three games into their Premier League title defence but their stuttering rivals must get their acts together if they are going to prevent an Anfield procession.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have answered questions about their appetite for more success after winning the club’s first English title for 30 years. Following their chaotic opening 4-3 win against Leeds, the Reds have reeled off a pair of impressive victories against Chelsea (2-0) and Arsenal (3-1) to extend their perfect start to the season.

A slightly below-par defensive effort against Leeds seems to have sharpened Liverpool’s focus.

They were back to their ruthless best as they dispatched big-spending Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before brushing aside Arsenal after the Gunners had the temerity to take the lead at Anfield.

The additions of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota have given Liverpool even more thrust and poise in midfield and attack – a frightening thought for their rivals given the Reds scored 85 goals in 38 league games last season.

Ahead of their trip to Aston Villa today, Klopp insisted he expects Liverpool to be pushed all the way to the finish line.

“It’s an open race, Chelsea will be there, (Manchester) United will be there, Arsenal, Tottenham, these teams will always be there,” he said. “There are tough moments for us and other teams and it’s about how you react and are you doing it in the right way?

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to go through a lot of moments. I have no idea who will win but I know a lot of teams will try.”

But privately, Klopp is aware that Liverpool’s bid to defend the title for the first time since 1984 will be greatly enhanced if their challengers cannot address their own shortcomings.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, meanwhile, has become the second player from the club to test positive for Covid-19 this week.

The Reds said on Friday the Senegalese, who scored in Monday’s win over Arsenal, has displayed minor symptoms of the coronavirus but feels in good health overall.

On Tuesday, midfielder Thiago tested positive and was also reported to be displaying minor symptoms.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

ASTON VILLA V LIVERPOOL

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