Rio Ferdinand insists defending champions Liverpool are favourites to win the Premier League this season but says the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United could challenge if the Reds are plagued by injuries.
Last season, Liverpool won the Premier League by 18 points, with Jurgen Klopp leading the Reds to their 19th top-flight title and first since 1990.
Ferdinand has dismissed the suggestion that it was a ‘freak season’ for Liverpool and says they could well defend their title if key players such as Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane stay fit.
But the former Manchester United and England defender insists that is no guarantee and has given Man City, Chelsea and Man United hope of catching Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s City side won the league in 2017-18 and 2018-19 before finishing second last term, while United and Chelsea have both been tipped to improve following encouraging seasons under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard respectively.
Ferdinand told TEAMtalk: ‘No one can say Liverpool had a freak season because they finished so far ahead of their rivals, but they did have one big factor on their side that they cannot guarantee going forward.
‘The key for them has been having their key players fit for the best part of two seasons.
‘It has been massive and what we have yet to find out is how they will cope if they are to lose a few big names for an extended period.
‘Virgil van Dijk has played nearly every game for two seasons and it’s hard to keep that going. Mo Salah has been fit for all the big games and so has Sadio Mane.
‘If they lose one of two of their players with big injuries, then we will see something else from them.
The Red Devils legend added: ‘Questions will be asked of this Liverpool team and their recruitment from this point forward.
‘Their front three have been fit consistently and they might need to look at having some better quality in reserve if Salah or Mane, in particular, are out for a long period.
‘When I look at the teams I played in when we were winning titles every season at Manchester United, we never had two seasons when all the top players were fit for the big games, so Liverpool have had some fortune there and obviously do things right on the medical side as well to get their players right.
‘If they can continue to keep those players fit, I don’t see Liverpool being stopped this season, but it is unlikely that will happen year after year. If things change with the personnel, it opens it up for the other teams and not just Man City.’
The 2020-21 Premier League campaign starts on Saturday with newly-promoted Fulham hosting London rivals Arsenal in the first game of the season.