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Premier League title race already over for everyone bar Liverpool and Man City

19:43 BST 31/08/2019
Liverpool Man City
A couple of hours after the champions routed Brighton 4-0 at the Etihad, the Reds cruised to a 3-0 victory at Turf Moor to regain top spot

If you can’t be good, be lucky.

At Turf Moor, Liverpool were both.

Their 3-0 win over Burnley owed a little to fortune, but it takes them back to the top of the Premier League table and maintains their perfect start to the new season. They have now won their last 13 league games, a club record.

Four games in, and the story is set; Liverpool versus Manchester City, who can last the course best? Like last season, nobody else will come close. Their standards are too high.

If City’s win over Brighton earlier in the afternoon was to be expected, plenty would have looked at this fixture as a potential banana skin for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Burnley, roared on by one of the league’s more boisterous home crowds, were dying to sink their teeth into the title hopefuls. They were ready to get amongst them, ready to ask questions, ready to see if the Reds still had the stomach for a fight.

They had a go. They always do. But Liverpool found a way to rise above it. They always do. 

Klopp had asked his team to be “hard” and they were. They stood up to Burnley’s physicality, took the bumps and the knocks and administered a few of their own too.

And then? Then it became a football match, a football contest. 

No contest, it turned out.

It really is remarkable what both Liverpool and City are doing right now. They are, for want of a better word, decimating what is supposed to be the world’s most competitive league.

Between them, they haven’t lost a league game since the end of January. They are relentless, ruthless. Winning machines.

Teams now arrive to play these two with their heads down, a goal down before a ball is kicked. How do you find a weakness, let alone exploit it? And even if you do, how do you keep your own chin covered against attackers of such class? Mo Salah didn't score here, but his two sidekicks did. All three are looking razor sharp this season.

Even Burnley, one of the best-drilled, best-organised teams around, were run ragged. They were undressed by Liverpool’s patterns and fluent movement, driven to distraction by their hunger and energy.

And do you know the scary bit? Liverpool weren’t at their best. Nowhere near, in fact. They haven’t been all season, and they have 12 points from 12. 

They needed a slice of luck to break this game open, a whipped cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold cross clipping off Chris Wood and looping into the far corner of Nick Pope’s net. Own goal, said the Premier League. Harsh on the Burnley man, to say the least.

That came after 33 minutes, and by 37 the game had disappeared. A mistake from Ben Mee, a pass from Roberto Firmino, a finish from Sadio Mane. Clinical. Easy.

The second half was almost boring, Liverpool controlling proceedings in second gear. Burnley tried to ask questions, but Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip answered them. They won header after header against Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, the strikers who were supposed to terrorise them. Between them, Burnley's front two won three aerial balls in 90 minutes.

It meant a first clean sheet of the campaign for Liverpool, though they needed Adrian’s last-minute save from substitute Jay Rodriguez. That will please Klopp, no doubt. The Spaniard had a good game, even if he could have popped into town for some shopping after half time.

Firmino provided the cake-topper, becoming the first Brazilian to reach 50 Premier League goals with a crisp strike 10 minutes from time. If there is a more complete centre-forward in the game right now, they’re well hidden.

All in all, a satisfying day’s work for the Reds, whose pace shows no sign of slowing.

August isn’t over yet, but for 18 clubs, the Premier League title race is. Liverpool and City are just too good.