LIVERPOOL will face a second acid test in the space of two weekends when they host resurgent Arsenal at Anfield on Monday.
The champions will come up against the Gunners who beat them on penalties to win the FA Community Shield at the end of last month. No doubt the home team will have a bit of payback in mind.
This is a crucial clash for both outfits in terms of gaining a psychological edge over the other, even if the season is still in its embryonic stages.
Both Liverpool and Arsenal started the new campaign with two wins in a row and today, something will give — one of these sides will lose that 100% record, or both of them.
In spite of this, the Reds will start with a marginal advantage.
Jurgen Klopp and his gallant squad rather easily saw off Chelsea last Sunday, but were helped in no small measure by the Blues suffering self- inflicted pain after being reduced to 10 men for a little more than one half of the match.
Given the manner in which Arsenal have committed themselves en route to winning the FA Cup in July and the Community Shield, Liverpool will expect a much tougher contest than the Chelsea game.
The debut performance of new signing, Thiago Alcantara, who came on halfway through last weekend’s game, delighted the Reds’ management and fans, and more of the same will be expected of him today.
While it was not Liverpool’s best game ever, they did enough to silence Chelsea and Klopp will prompt his side for a similar result, albeit with a more polished shift.
Sadio Mane, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum stood out in that fixture and there won’t be many bets on them not putting on another show like that.
Fabinho starred in the role of centre back because of the injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, and while no update was immediately available on their injuries, it would be interesting to see what Klopp would do when the defenders return to full fitness.
Arsenal may be wary of travelling to the home of the champions, but they will not be daunted by the task at hand. Indeed, Mikel Arteta will be relishing the chance to further consolidate the progress he has made in the development of his squad since taking over at the Emirates in December. Last week he had his positioned changed from head coach to manager.
If Liverpool have a formidable trio upfront, and they do in Mane, Firmino and Mo Salah, the Gunners have an almost equally impressive one of their own. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian are a fearsome combination in their own right and if Liverpool defend even a little haphazardly, they could well pay a heavy price for it.
Arteta made 11 changes to his side
for their League Cup win over Leicester City in midweek. But it is likely that today he will return to the starting XI of last weekend, perhaps bringing in Nicolas Pepe.
Twenty-one-year-old Edward Nketiah got goals in successive games against West Ham and Leicester, and he may yet come off the bench on Monday to make it three-out-of-three.
But at the back of his mind, manager Arteta will know that a big challenge awaits his team and he will be dead keen on winning any way he can — much the same way as Klopp will be approaching the game.
Manchester United’s dreadful start in the league was cushioned somewhat by their 3-0 victory over Luton Town in the League Cup on Wednesday and the visitors to Brighton Hove Albion will be out to maintain that winning feeling.
But Brighton might not be as easy to overcome as Man United would like. The Seagulls thumped Newcastle 3-0 last weekend and have been buoyed by that result.
Nevertheless, Man Utd should emerge with the result and chalk up their first points of the campaign.
Everton’s visit to Crystal Palace today is another match that features two sides with perfect starts to the new season.
In this one, it might come down to home advantage making the difference. But then again, the away team does appear to have something extra that can carry them over the line and see them leave with the points, if not a point.