Liverpool are on the hunt for an unprecedented treble among English clubs, which would see them secure success in each of the Premier League, Champions League and the Club World Cup this season.
They already hold an eight-point lead at the summit of the Premier League table after their standout 3-1 victory over league rivals Manchester City prior to the international break. Their pursuit to retain the Champions League is also in a healthy position, with the Reds on the cusp of securing qualification out of their group.
Additionally, their Club World Cup campaign commences next month and will see Jurgen Klopp’s side battle the winners of the other five continental confederation cups, as well as the host nation’s league champions, to secure the title of Club World Champions.
It is therefore not inconceivable to imagine Liverpool going onto lift all three trophies over the course of the next seven months given the current prowess of the club, although there is no doubt they are bound to face stiff competition in each contest.
But who poses the biggest risk to Liverpool in each tournament?
Liverpool boast the current bragging rights over their Manchester-based rivals after that standout victory at Anfield two weeks ago, and the current champions have already lost three league games this season, one fewer than they suffered across the whole of last season.
However, despite the narrative that seems to paint them as a shadow of the side they were last season, their underlying numbers continue to highlight them as a dominating and presiding figure in the division.
Currently, according to Understat, Pep Guardiola’s side rank top in the Premier League in terms of Non-penalty Expected Goals (NPxG) with 36.05.
However, their Achilles heel this season has been a soft defence which has posted an NPxG against total of 13.48. This is currently bettered by five other sides.
Despite that fragility at the back, Understat’s Expected points (xP) metic ranks City top of the table, with a predicted total of 28.28 points – three more than what they have so far. Therefore, there is evidence to suggest City will again come strong as the season progresses and most likely pose a greater risk to Liverpool than the likes of Chelsea and Leicester City.
Guardiola’s side also have key personal returning such as Aymeric Laporte in the New Year, which will help to solidify the current soft underbelly that is in their defence.
The Reds overcame Bayern Munich en route to their historic sixth European crown last season, and both sides may well clash again in this season’s edition of the competition.
The Bavarian club have endured a limp start to their domestic season and are currently positioned third in the Bundesliga behind Borussia Mönchengladbach and RB Leipzig. This sort of faltering form was deemed unacceptable by the Bayern hierarchy, who sacked manager Niko Kovac at the beginning of the month following an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Notwithstanding their struggles at home, Bayern have still proved a robust and dominant side in European competition. Despite being housed in a competitive group containing Tottenham, Red Star Belgrade and Olympiacos, they have averaged very high 24.75 shots per 90 minutes.
As a result, it comes as no surprise to note that they have scored an average of 3.75 goals per game in the competition, which is the highest of any side this season, with ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho helping pull the strings and former Klopp man Robert Lewandowski firing. Additionally, they have conceded just four goals – two of which came in their obliteration of Spurs in that famous 7-2 away victory, in which Serge Gnabry scored four.
Not only do they look like real contenders this season, but their threat also becomes that bit more eye-catching following the recent managerial changes in London. Mauricio Pochettino was relieved of his duties at Spurs earlier this week and replaced by Jose Mourinho.
Munich could very well be the destination for the Argentine, who you would back to inject some zest into the already well-equipped squad at the Allianz Arena, and set them back onto the path to becoming one of the top dogs in Europe again.
We can also expect to see Barcelona seek revenge for ‘that night’ at Anfield, as well as genuine charges towards glory in the competition from the usual super clubs such as PSG and Real Madrid, who again spent a lot to bring in reinforcements this summer with the Champions League on their mind.
Manchester City are also an obvious threat, with Liverpool knowing them better than any other of their potential opponents deep into the competition.
World Club Cup
With the competition containing a number of unknown quantities, Liverpool’s scouting team are bound to be put to the test ahead of the marquee tournament in Qatar.
This year’s participants include Espérance de Tunis (Tunisia), Hienghène Sport (New Caledonia), Al-Sadd (Qatar), Monterrey (Mexico) and one of either River Plate (Argentina) or Flamengo (Brazil), who meet in this Saturday’s Copa Libertadores final.
Whoever wins in this weekend’s crunch match up will most likely provide the sternest test for Klopp’s men.
Last year’s Copa Libertadores winners River Plate look to be a decent defensive unit, conceding just seven goals across their whole Copa Libertadores campaign so far.
They also look to be strong in attack and scored the second-highest numbers of goals, and boasted the best xG in the Argentine Super Liga last season. They struggled to translate that same sort of attacking dominance into this season’s continental competition however, with six other sides bettering their tally of 15.
The same cannot be said for their opponents Flamengo who netted a scintillating 22 goals en route to the final in this year’s competition – the most of any side in the competition. They also conceded just nine goals, proving themselves as a difficult side to breakdown.
Away from these two giants of South American football, Liverpool may also be wary of CONCACAF Champions League winners CF Monterrey. The Mexican side will be making their fourth appearance at the competition, making them the CONCACAF side with the joint-most participations in the competition.
They conceded just four goals on the way to their respective Champions League success and notably obliterated MLS side Sporting Kansas City 10-2 over two legs in the semi-final of the competition.
There may also be added initiative for striker Rogelio Gabriel Funes Mori to land a hammer blow to Liverpool’s Club World Cup aspirations given his twin brother played for Everton not so long ago, and was sent off in a 4-0 drumming at Anfield in 2016.