Have injuries and the international break blown the title race wide open?

Liverpool may no longer be favourites to retain their Premier League title when it returns this weekend following the international break.

The reigning champions have suffered a string of injuries that has ravaged their defence and could now face a spell without talisman Mo Salah, who returned a second positive Covid-19 test while on duty with Egypt.

Centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez look set for long spells on the sidelines too while there are also question marks over the form and fitness of usually-reliable full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

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These defensive woes have been reflected in Jurgen Klopp’s side’s inability to keep clean sheets in the Premier League this season, conceding 16 goals in the first eight games – almost 50 per cent of their overall total last season. 

Manchester City were considered the closest rivals at the beginning of the season but may well have leapfrogged Liverpool into pole position by the time the international break is over.

Many of Pep Guardiola’s men have been in fine form for their country including new boy Ferran Torres, who scored a hat-trick in Spain’s 6-0 demolition of Germany on Tuesday night while Rodri was also on the scoresheet. 

Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch, it’s almost a complete role reversal for the two clubs as the defensive partnership of Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte looks to be gelling nicely.

In the bookies’ eyes, the two heavyweights still stand head and shoulders above all others but this season is starting to look as though we could have a repeat of Leicester’s triumphant 2015/16 campaign. After all, the Foxes are currently on top. 

If Liverpool and Manchester City both fail to get their house in order soon then fans could be in line for another surprise Premier League winner this season with Leicester, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea all showing their credentials in the early stages of the season.

Jose Mourinho has morphed Spurs into an attacking powerhouse with Harry Kane and Heung-min Son looking unstoppable at times, while also conceding the joint-fewest goals in the division. 

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The only team to have outscored Spurs this season are London rivals Chelsea, who are no strangers to lifting the Premier League trophy, having last done so in 2016/17.

Arsenal and Manchester United should automatically come into the conversation at this point but after impressive starts from the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and Southampton, the big guns could see themselves challenged for the lucrative top spots this season.

The Premier League gets back underway on Saturday with Newcastle v Chelsea as managers face nervous waits on who will be returning to their squads and what condition they will be in. 

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