ESPN pundits Julien Laurens and Frank Leboeuf have claimed that both Chelsea and Manchester City are favourites for the Premier League title due to the impact the African Cup of Nations will have on Liverpool’s season.
Speaking on ESPN, French journalist Laurens claimed that Jurgen Klopp’s side will not be the same whilst star men Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are on international duty in January.
“Liverpool without them two will be a very different Liverpool. You feel that the AFCON for Liverpool will have such a big impact potentially thats why I think right now, certainly for the bookmakers, Chelsea and City are still above them in the title race,” the 41-year-old said.
The Frenchman highlighted the Reds’ defensive frailty as one of the reasons why he is backing Chelsea to win the title.
“Defensively I think Liverpool at times, we saw at Brentford and we saw at West Ham where they both conceded three goals, can be better of course. I think for Chelsea there is more room for improvement,” he added.
“Once Tuchel has really integrated [Romelu] Lukaku into the way he wants the team to play and Lukaku is firing up and at his best I think Chelsea will be even more dangerous.
“They’re currently top of the table and I think they still look good to win the title but you can expect a huge title race betwen them three and I think it will be very fascinating until the end.”
Meanwhile, Frank Leboeuf has insisted ‘you have to be crazy’ to predict who will win the league this season.
The former Chelsea defender said, “It’s going to be tight, for sure, everything can happen. The African Championships are going to be crucial in determining who is going to win the Premier League or not.”
“Losing Mane and Salah is huge, really, I mean especially Salah right now, it is huge for Liverpool to lose that kind of player. It’s also going to be interesting to see how Kepa is going to do when Mendy is not there and this is why I think City are still the favourites for me.
“Chelsea proved that they can finish well [last season] and Liverpool have enough talent to cope with the situation. It’s a race of three,” the Marseille-born 53-year-old added.
We will certainly be lacking some firepower in January whilst Mo and Sadio are representing their respective countries, so we will be relying on our fringe players to step up in their absence.
Chelsea and City definitely have stronger squads and won’t feel the effects of losing players during the season like we will, so let’s hope Jurgen has a few tricks up his sleeve to keep us in the title race.