Brighton boss Chris Hughton says Liverpool must be regarded as genuine Premier League title contenders.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds finished 25 points adrift of runaway champions Manchester City last season but did reach the Champions League final.
The Merseyside club have since spent in excess of £170 million on new players, including goalkeeper Alisson Becker and midfielders Naby Keita and Fabinho.
Hughton takes his team to Anfield on Saturday and believes this could be the year the hosts end their 29-year wait for a title triumph.
“Yes. Simply because they are a team—and because they didn’t win it you sometimes forget—but they got to the final of the Champions League final last year,” replied Hughton when asked if Liverpool are capable of winning the Premier League for the first time.
“And if some circumstances had been different they might have won it.
“So you are talking about a team of that level, and I think they have improved the squad, so I think you have to [regard Liverpool as title contenders].
“Man City I think would naturally be the favourite because of what they have done last season and how convincing they were last season.
“But yes, I would consider these to be very much title contenders as well.”
Liverpool have underlined their title credentials by beginning the season with successive wins.
New keeper Alisson, a £65 million purchase from Roma, has kept consecutive clean-sheets in those games—a 4-0 victory over West Ham and a 2-0 success at Crystal Palace—while Guinea international Keita has impressed in central midfield.
The deal for Keita, signed from RB Leipzig for £52.75 million, was agreed last summer and Hughton believes it could become a real coup for Klopp’s side.
“He looks an outstanding player. I saw a bit of him last season and if I am looking at recruitment, the foresight for Liverpool to recruit him and then leave him there last season was outstanding,” Hughton said of Keita.
“From what I’ve seen he is only going to get better and I think he can be a really outstanding player.”
Liverpool thrashed Brighton 5-1 and 4-0 last season, with the more recent victory coming just 13 days before they lost their European final to Real Madrid.
Albion, who bounced back from their opening-day loss at Watford by beating Manchester United last weekend, have not won a league match at Anfield since March 1982.
And Hughton is wary of being on the receiving end of another heavy defeat.
“You know these are the sort of places that if you don’t get it right then you can get beat big,” he added.
“Probably as a manager that’s always the one that you want to avoid.
“If apprehension is the right word then, yes, you play your Citys away and Tottenhams and Liverpools away then yes, a little more apprehension.”
Brighton vice-captain Lewis Dunk is a major doubt due to an ankle injury sustained last weekend, while skipper Bruno (hamstring), winger Jose Izquierdo (lack of fitness) and forward Florin Andone (groin) remain sidelined.