Previously unbeaten Liverpool had threatened to run away with the Premier League title but Manchester City’s victory over Jurgen Klopp’s men keeps the race alive.
City’s 2-1 win was not without controversy but the three points are in the bag and the gap now cut to four.
Seventeen games remain for both clubs as they return from FA Cup duty but who will Pep Guardiola’s men mount a successful defence or will it be a first EPL title for Liverpool?
The figures suggest that Manchester City have a marginally tougher challenge over the remainder of the 2018/19 campaign. Their remaining seventeen opponents have, to date, amassed an average of 27.5 points while for Liverpool, that figure dips slightly to 26.1.
Those averages also indicated a much harder run in for City whose last six opponents have 27.2 points while for Liverpool, there is a more significant drop to 22.5. Those numbers, together with the four point gap, put Liverpool as 4/5 favourites in the premier league betting markets while Manchester City are close behind at 6/5.
Spurs fans would argue that their team retains a chance but most pundits assume this is a two horse race so who will be lifting the most important piece of silverware in May?
Unlike their main rivals, Liverpool have not managed to slip up against lower ranked opposition. While Manchester City have lost to Crystal Palace and Leicester City either side of Christmas, Klopp’s men have only suffered that one defeat.
Liverpool can therefore be expected to remain unbeaten through January as they face Brighton, Palace and Leicester. West Ham and Bournemouth wait at the start of the next month followed by the first big test of the year for the Reds. On February 24, Liverpool make the short journey to Old Trafford to take on old rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Red Devils are out of the title race but are rejuvenated under temporary boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and if they maintain their recent form, United could be favourites.
Liverpool’s away fixture to Everton has to be factored in and while the Toffees have struggled at times under new boss Marco Silva, they will undoubtedly raise their game for a Merseyside Derby. That game takes place on March 2nd and the month ends with another tricky encounter against title hopefuls Spurs at Anfield.
Two weeks later, Liverpool are at home to Chelsea but if they are clear at the top by the time Maurizio Sarri’s side depart, that run in suggests the title would be heading to the red half of Merseyside. Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle await before Liverpool’s season concludes with a home fixture against Wolves.
Manchester City’s capacity to drop points against weaker teams means that nothing will be taken for granted but the club’s season could be decided over two weeks in February. Consecutive games against Arsenal and Chelsea are in store but the good news is that City will be at home in both instances.
A potentially tricky away trip to Everton follows immediately in what is a competitive month for Guardiola’s men while March features the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford. April is ushered in with a home fixture against Tottenham and the campaign ends on the south coast with a trip to Brighton on May 12.
Holding the Key
Manchester United may be out of the title race themselves but it’s clear that the Red Devils will have a big say in the destination of this season’s trophy. Solskjaer’s men will host both Liverpool and Manchester City so the ultimate prize could yet be won and lost at Old Trafford.
Liverpool have that gap at the top and an easier run in with Spurs and Chelsea to face but otherwise, all scheduled games are against teams outside of the top six. City have to face the same London pair but Arsenal are also heading to the Etihad. Ultimately, it’s about maintaining composure and Liverpool’s response to their first league defeat is particularly important but right now, the advantage lies with Klopp and his men.