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Burnley 0 – 3 Liverpool

It is as much in damnation of the deficiencies of the competition as in acclaim of Liverpool and Manchester City that we can already declare a two-horse title race before September.

In fact, Jurgen Klopp’s pre-season prediction of the rest of the top six closing the gap would appear to be one of the most poorly judged observations since he came to England. It is the only mistake he has made recently as his side returned to the top of the Premier League with a comfortable win over Burnley.

This already feels like an extension to last year’s climax, City and Liverpool making a statement, the other issuing an immediate response. Perhaps this year should be a series of play-off fixtures; make it more interesting for neutrals.

Liverpool set another club record with their easy win here, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino adding to Chris Wood’s own goal. Their 13 consecutive league victories beats the run of 12 between April and October 1990.

“This team wants to write its own stories and wants to create its own history,” Klopp said. “One is the number – 13 games in a row. The other thing is in the 13th game of that series, showing the attitude the boys showed today.”

Burnley can argue there was an element of fortune in the manner Liverpool took control, when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross caused the freakish opener as it deflected off Wood and looped over Nick Pope.

Such small yet significant details can be micro-analysed but in a broader sense the gulf was as great as it has been whenever the top two have played anyone other than each other in the Premier League lately.

Four games in, the evidence supports the idea of Liverpool and City growing stronger while the best-resourced rivals remain in transition.

“I do think they and Man City are the best,” said Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager. “If they turn the ball over in a bad area they can change the flow, tempo and mentality of the game. They pounce and then act.”

Opposing managers are rapidly running out of ideas to prevent Klopp and Pep Guardiola disappearing over the horizon. Burnley’s best chance here came and went in the first minute.

That was when Matt Lowton received the ball from his goalkeeper just outside the penalty area with every other outfield player standing within 35 yards each other just inside Liverpool’s half. The full-back launched as much in hope as the certainty of its direction but, as the visiting defenders watched, it dropped to Wood. The striker rushed towards Adrian and should have scored, denied by the fingertips of the goalkeeper.

Here was the gap between the Premier League elite and the rest summed up in a single move. The blueprint for most of those who come up against Liverpool and City is to bypass rather than engage with their ball players, attempting to make occupation of the creative, central zone an optional extra.

They can show a certain level of ambition but it does not stretch much further than making life as uncomfortable as physically possible, to examine their stamina, concentration and stomach for a fight at venues such as this, creating sporadic moments of anxiety and little else. It is not without merit. There is no set-piece or corner at Burnley that does not carry a threat.

Dyche certainly could not be accused of lacking boldness against the European champions. You would have to travel to an era long before Klopp’s to find a side setting up with two wingers against Liverpool. But Burnley could have allocated four men to shadow Firmino and the Brazilian would still have found space to run the game.

It was only a matter of time before he weighed the right pass to Mane or Mohamed Salah. He did so for Mane after 37 minutes, the Senegal striker clipping past Pope without breaking stride to double the advantage. There was an element of self-sabotage as Ben Mee gifted possession to Liverpool’s striker to facilitate the killer pass.

The same selflessness cannot be said of Salah, who frequently went close, must unfortunately when hitting the post, but incurred some wrath when continuing to ignore passes to well-positioned team-mates. Mane seemed especially displeased to be substituted shortly after being denied a tap-in by the Egyptian’s tunnel vision.

“Sadio cannot hide his emotions. Everything is fine,” Klopp said. “There was a situation in the game he was not happy about. He did not say any wrong words. He just looked a bit different than usual.”

Last season, Klopp came to Turf Moor and had to summon Firmino and Mane off the bench to win. There was a symmetry to him giving them a rest in the finale, the South American’s scrumptious finish after 80 minutes allowing Klopp the luxury of substitutions. With that, most of the home fans had seen enough. So has the rest of the country in determining which clubs are capable of competing for the title.

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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