Previous
Mouscron-Peruwelz
Club Brugge
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Hellas Verona
Lazio
7:45 PM GMT
Game Details
São Paulo
Emelec
10:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
New York Red Bulls
Sporting Kansas City
ESPN2 12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Boca Juniors
Cerro Porteño
12:30 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Next
Oct 4, 2009

Reds in battle for fourth

Liverpool will need to make history to land the Premier League title this season after three defeats in the first eight games, but a more sobering thought is that they have a battle to maintain a top-four place to qualify for the Champions League.

• Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool: Drogba the star
• Palmer: Lucas fails to step up to the mark

With Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham making a concerted effort to break into the top four, "The Establishment", the usually-guaranteed Big Four are being put under severe pressure. The competitive edge of the Premier League has been questioned with too much predictability over the years, but is this the season to re-write the accepted order?

Liverpool have been craving the biggest domestic prize, particularly as Manchester United are out to break Liverpool's record total of championships. Both giants are on 18 domestic titles.

As for this season's battle, it is increasingly becoming a two-horse race between the current champions and Roman Abramovich's Chelsea Pensioners. They might have so many players 30 or over, but four of their OAPs strung together the passes to make the first goal.

It really does pain me to say that Liverpool are at risk, although Arsenal, too, cannot be sure of their position despite an emphatic 6-2 win over Blackburn. Anfield is awash with talent and Rafa Benitez has brought in some wonderful players, such as Fernando Torres.

But Drogba is a brute, too fierce to handle on his day, and although the Ivory Coast striker didn't score himself, he made both goals. The second one, Jamie Carragher couldn't stop, even when tugging at his shirt.

Chelsea haven't been firing on all cylinders, with defeat at Wigan surrendering their 100% record, and that put Carlo Ancelotti under pressure. Big Phil Scolari lost at the Bridge against Liverpool a year ago, after a blistering start, and his reign never was the same. The Brazilian coach was eventually sacked.

The Italian coach knows that if he defaults on the lust for silverware in West London then Guus Hiddinik will be back sooner rather than later.

As the Premier League shuts down for the double headers of World Cup ties, it was important for both clubs who pitched up at the Bridge to win, but even a draw would have given Liverpool some heart. Now, it seems more like a tough winter ahead, potentially of discontent if it gets much worse. Benitez has a lot of soul searching to do in the fortnight break to attempt to get Liverpool back on track in the title race.

But no-one has ever won the Premier League after losing three of their opening eight games. You have to go back to 1967 when Manchester United won the title after suffering that number of defeats at the start of the season.

I doubt whether even the most partizan Liverpool supporters can believe that the Reds will win the title yet again. To be off the pace in early October is a shattering blow to a Liverpool side ambitious to re-ignite their quest for the title. In my view Liverpool were always going to be on the fringe of the title race, but more worrying must be that they are on the fringe of maintaining their top-four place.

As for Chelsea, I have pointed out that Frank Lampard has been in a rut - a rut of not scoring at anywhere near his normal rate. That will change. But Lampard made a telling contribution by winning the ball from Liverpool's ball-winner Mascherano, which set in motion the counter attack that led to Drogba crossing for Anelka to stretch to opening the scoring.

Lampard will have enjoyed that, but will enjoy his return to goalscoring even more as he gradually comes to terms with his new role within the manager's midfield diamond. Lampard's contribution has helped to take Chelsea back to the top of the table and the next major event in the title race will occur when Ancellotti locks horns with Sir Alex.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.