Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool players they cannot afford to rest on their laurels if they are to retain their Premier League title as they prepare to take on fellow perfect side Aston Villa.
The reigning champions have defeated Leeds United, Chelsea and Arsenal in their first three matches to make a 100-per-cent start to the 2020-21 campaign. Victory over Villa on Sunday would make Liverpool the first side in English top-flight history to win their first four matches in three successive campaigns.
Klopp's men finished 18 points clear of Manchester City last term but the German is taking nothing for granted after seeing rival clubs strengthen during the transfer window.
"If we really want to attack the title this year we have to improve," said Klopp, who is hoping to have skipper Jordan Henderson back available at Villa Park. "Other clubs have done really good business. Every team has gotten stronger with some top signings. If you want to improve you have to make big steps.
"We can only be consistent by performing at a big level. With a number of games in a short period of time, we must have different line-ups. We need to make sure we can do that."
Villa also boast a perfect record in the league, albeit from one game fewer than Liverpool, scoring four goals in wins over Sheffield United and Fulham without conceding. They only narrowly avoided relegation last season but are positioned fourth in the table early on this term, which Dean Smith puts down to his side's impressive transfer business - Ross Barkley the latest to join on loan from Chelsea.
"It feels like a really good window," Smith said. "It's a lot easier when you only have a handful of signings to do rather than the 13 we had to do last year. I believe we've added quality to a more experienced team in the Premier League, having found it tough in the first season.
"I saw an improvement from the majority of our players last season and now we've added quality to that core of the team. Overall, I'm really pleased with where we're at."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aston Villa - Jack Grealish
The Villa captain has scored twice in his last three league matches - as many as in his previous 19 - and was rewarded with another call-up to the England squad this week. He was on target in the routine 3-0 win over Fulham last weekend and is now looking to score in back-to-back games in the Premier League for the first time in a year.
Liverpool - Mohamed Salah
Salah was one of only two players, along with Virgil van Dijk, to keep his place in the line-up for Liverpool's penalty shoot-out defeat to Arsenal in the EFL Cup last 16 on Thursday. The Egypt international is playing his fourth match in 22 days and has failed to score in the last three of those since bagging a hat-trick against Leeds United on the opening day, so he will be looking to put that right against Villa.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Aston Villa have lost their last five Premier League meetings with Liverpool by an aggregate score of 15-3. They last lost more league games consecutively against the Reds between 1964 and 1975 (7).
- Liverpool have lost just one of their last 19 Premier League away games against Aston Villa (W13 D5), winning their last six visits since a 1-0 loss in May 2011.
- Only Manchester United (16 at both Aston Villa and Everton) have won more away Premier League games against a single opponent than Liverpool have at Aston Villa (14). Indeed, Aston Villa v Liverpool has seen more away wins overall (20 - 14 by Liverpool, six by Villa) than any other Premier League fixture.
- Villa have not won each of their first three league games in a single campaign since 1962-63, and they have not kept a clean sheet in each of their opening three league games since 1900-01.
- Smith's side are on the longest current unbeaten run of any side in the Premier League (6 – W4 D2), with the Villans looking to win three consecutively in the competition for the first time since April 2010.