By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Juergen Klopp is earning weekly plaudits for Liverpool’s stunning start to the Premier League season but two of the club’s former managers, Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson, are busy polishing their reputations.
Under Rodgers, Leicester City are looking serious contenders for a top-four spot after taking 20 points from their first 10 games, culminating in a 9-0 victory away to Southampton last week — matching the Premier League record winning margin.
Third-placed Leicester go to Hodgson’s sixth-placed Crystal Palace on Sunday in a clash between two clubs appearing capable of taking advantage of cracks in the established order.
Leaders Liverpool will be odds-on to continue their title charge away to Aston Villa on Saturday while champions Manchester City, six points adrift, face troubled Southampton at home having beaten them in the League Cup on Tuesday.
Fourth-placed Chelsea seek a fifth successive Premier League win as they take on bottom club Watford while on Sunday, two teams expected to be challenging for the top four but way off the pace, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, meet at Goodison Park.
If any more proof were required that Leicester City should be taken seriously this season it was provided in spades last Friday when they tore sorry Southampton to shreds.
They are a point better off at the same stage compared to their miraculous title-winning season of 2015-16 and playing a more sophisticated brand of football.
Leicester have scored more goals than Liverpool and share the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Jamie Vardy, as he did in 2015-16, is terrorising defences and leads the scoring charts with nine, one more than City’s Sergio Aguero and Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham.
Only three teams have completed more passes than Leicester — Liverpool, City and Chelsea — while Ricardo Pereira and Wilfred Ndidi top the tackling charts.
In terms of attacking depth too, Leicester appear ready for the long haul with the likes of Demarai Gray and Kelechi Iheanacho given rare starts in the midweek League Cup win over Burton Albion which put the Foxes into the quarter-finals.
“There’s a lot of belief at the moment. The confidence is really high,” assistant manager Chris Davies said on Tuesday.
Palace are also impressing and came back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Arsenal last weekend.
Hodgson, as is his wont, is keeping things low-key though.
“I think you have to be very careful about getting too excited when you find yourselves a bit higher in the table, or too depressed when you find yourselves a bit lower down,” Hodgson said last week.
“Until such time when it’s really going to count, and that’s going to take us into the spring of next year.”
Things are not looking so rosy for Everton and Tottenham.
Everton have lost five of their last six Premier League games leaving manager Marco Silva under scrutiny while Tottenham, without an away league win since January, are 11th and defeat at Goodison would see them slip below Everton.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is facing his first real crisis since taking over in 2014, but he is not the only north London manager under pressure.
Arsenal appear relatively well-placed in fifth spot but there is an air of discontent hanging over the Emirates with fans divided over manager Unai Emery’s methods.
Having lost a stupendous League Cup tie at Liverpool on Wednesday, they face Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
Manchester United will hope to continue their upturn in form as they go to Bournemouth on Saturday.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)