Why are Chelsea top of the Premier League table and not Liverpool?
General

Why are Chelsea top of the Premier League table and not Liverpool?

Chelsea and Liverpool have started the 2021/22 campaign on fire. 

The two sides have had an identical start, with Antonio Rudiger's stoppage-time third goal in Chelsea's 3-0 win over Tottenham establishing a Premier League first.

The result meant that for the first time in the English Premier League history, two teams had recorded identical results in their opening five fixtures. 

This also means the two sides sit atop the Premier League table with identical statistics. 

These opening results have given Chelsea and Liverpool both 13 points, with a goal difference of +11 and identical goals scored (12).

But why is Chelsea at the top?

Rule C.7 in the Premier League Handbook that holds the rules of competition stipulates that when two teams have the same points, goal difference and goals scored, "they shall be deemed to occupy the same position on the League Table".

So, Chelsea and Liverpool are joint-top and have the same position.

So Chelsea have been placed above Liverpool solely for alphabetical reasons. 

What happens if this is the scenario at the end of the season?

If two teams have the same points, goal difference, and goals scored, Rule C.17.1 states that if Team A won more points than Team B in their two head-to-head encounters, Team A will finish higher.

But if the two teams cannot be separated by points gained head-to-head, then, under Rule C.17.2, the team scoring the highest number of goals when the visiting club in the head-to-head matches will determine which team finish above the other.  

If Rule C.17.1 nor Rule C.17.2 cannot separate the two, then a playoff at a neutral ground will determine who finish higher, with the format, timing and venue decided by the Premier League Board.