The 2020-21 Premier League has had its fair share of surprises. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a shorter-than-usual turnaround before the start of the ongoing season, an intriguing title race is now taking shape.
Reigning champions Liverpool once again look like the team to beat in the Premier League this season but are unlikely to have a straightforward title defence. The Reds have already endured two defeats and could be usurped at the league summit by Manchester United, who have a game in hand.
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, who were denied a Premier League three-peat by a rampaging Liverpool last season, are beginning to move up the league table after an underwhelming start to their campaign. They trail the Merseyside giants by four points but have two games in hand.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur are level on points with City, with the top five teams in this season's Premier League separated by only four points.
On that note, let us have a look at five players who could play key roles for their sides in the Premier League title race this season.
Five players who could play pivotal roles in an intriguing 2020-21 Premier League title race
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic throwing the football calendar into disarray, some top players have hit the ground running. Their form and performances during the remainder of the current campaign could be key in determining the outcome of what appears to be one of the most open Premier League title races in years.
Without further ado, let us have a look at five such players in no particular order.
#5 Fabinho (Liverpool)
Fabinho has been a key player for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool since his arrival at the club in the summer of 2018.
The defensive midfielder, who played 28 Premier League games apiece in the last seasons, has been slotted to the centre of the Liverpool defence by Klopp following injuries to defensive mainstays Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip.
Liverpool have been uncharacteristically sloppy at the back this season and have lacked their usual fluency up front too. Fabinho's presence could, therefore, be pivotal to the club's chances of a successful Premier League title defence.
The 27-year-old particularly impressed in the win against Chelsea, completing the most passes, recoveries, interceptions and clearances in that game.
It was a performance that drew words of rich applause from Klopp, who said in the aftermath of the game:
"If Sadio wouldn't have scored two goals, I think Fab would be a proper contender for man of the match. I loved his performance, he played outstanding. He helped us a lot with the ball and in defending as well, so yes, a proper performance."
With Van Dijk and Matip ruled out for large swathes of the season, Fabinho could continue to ply his trade at centre-back for the Premier League giants, who will look to keep out a plethora of contenders who are too close to them in the league table at the moment.
#4 Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Marcus Rashford has undoubtedly been the best player under Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is trying to inspire an unexpected title run for the beleaguered club.
After their wretched run at home, where they failed to win their first four league games in a season for the first time in almost five decades, Manchester United's stunning exploits on the road and improving form at home have ignited hopes of the club's first Premier League win in eight years.
One player - Marcus Rashford - has particularly starred in the club's recent resurgence. The 23-year-old, who scored 17 Premier League goals last season, has already racked up seven goals and as many assists in the competitions this campaign.
Solskjaer recently spoke about Rashford's impact even when the player is not scoring goals, saying in this regard:
"Both as a player and person he has been absolutely brilliant. We are very proud of him as a person and a player. He was always a threat. We create chances for him and he creates them for others."
Rashford's form could indeed be key to Manchester United's hopes of living up to their darkhorse tag and going all the way in the Premier League this season.