Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures in the run-in? Manchester City or Liverpool?

Mark Critchley
The Independent

Eight games remain in the Premier League season, with champions Manchester City and challengers Liverpool the only teams left in contention to win the Premier League title.

The two clubs are currently separated by just one point, after their respective wins over Watford and Burnley this weekend.

The competitive standard they have both set has simply been too difficult for the rest of the pack to keep up with.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

At this rate, one of Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola will end in second place having managed one of the Premier League’s best-ever runners-up.

And whether City defend their crown or Liverpool end their 29-year wait for a domestic title will depend in part on how their fixtures fall in these final weeks and months.

By calculating the average points-per-game home and away of each top-flight club, we can weigh up the difficulty of their run-ins and see where the title may be won and lost.

[[gallery-0]]

Manchester City

Current position: 1st

Points: 74

Average home/away points of opponents: 1.33

Remaining fixtures

30/03 Fulham (A)

06/04 Cardiff (H) *

14/04 Crystal Palace (A)

20/04 Tottenham (H)

24/04 Manchester United (A)

28/04 Burnley (A)

04/05 Leicester (H)

12/05 Brighton (A)

* Subject to change due to FA Cup

City’s schedule comes with two reminders of the last time they contested a Premier League title race with Liverpool five years ago.

The champions travel to Crystal Palace on the same afternoon that Liverpool host Chelsea, just as they did on a pivotal April day of the 2013-14 campaign.

And if that was not eerie enough, Brendan Rodgers will be given the chance to enact revenge when Leicester City visit the Etihad on the penultimate weekend.

But the key game in the remainder of this title race is likely to be City’s trip to Old Trafford on 24 April.

The Manchester derby will be City’s most difficult test. It will also be a game in hand over Liverpool, who play Fulham next weekend while their rivals are in FA Cup action.

It comes at a challenging time too. City host Tottenham four days before playing United, then face a tough trip to Burnley four days later.

Six points away to Fulham and at home against Cardiff will be expected.

The champions will also hope that Brighton are all but on the beach rather than fighting to stay up on the final day. Chris Hughton’s side can be a tough nut to crack at the Amex.

Liverpool

Current position: 2nd

Points: 73

Average home/away points of opponents: 1.32

Remaining fixtures

17/03 Fulham (A)

31/03 Tottenham (H)

05/04 Southampton (A)

14/04 Chelsea (H)

21/04 Cardiff (A)

26/04 Huddersfield (H)

04/05 Newcastle (A)

12/05 Wolves (H)

When comparing the home and away points-per-game totals of Liverpool and City’s remaining opponents, the difference is 0.01 of a point in Liverpool’s favour.

In other words, there is no meaningful difference in difficulty when comparing the remaining schedules of the two title contenders.

Liverpool’s remaining away days are against bottom-half clubs, which can be a double-edged sword at this time of the season.

Fulham, Southampton and Cardiff are all currently fighting for the points they require to retain their top-flight status, even if some look more doomed than others.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are in excellent form and will be no pushovers at St James’ Park on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

Two ‘top six’ clubs visit Anfield before the end of the season. Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham arrive at the end of the month and have struggled of late.

Chelsea have not travelled particularly well under Maurizio Sarri but have already won at Anfield this season in the EFL Cup.

Huddersfield’s form on the road is woeful and Jan Siewert’s men may well be relegated by the time they turn up on Merseyside.

But Wolverhampton Wanderers are not ideal final day opponents and Anfield itself could be a gift or a curse if it does come down to the very last game.

Verdict

It remains very close to call though, with a point advantage and a relatively even schedule, City must be considered favourites.

How Guardiola’s side negotiate their commitments in other competitions next month is likely to be the deciding factor.

Their league sequence of Palace away, Tottenham at home, United away and Burnley away comes at a key moment in their season as a whole.

A probable Champions League quarter-final second leg falls in the middle of that spell and a possible semi-final comes right after it, the midweek before Leicester’s visit.

Add in a likely FA Cup semi-final, which would force the Cardiff game to be rearranged, and City’s April suddenly appears quite hectic.

Liverpool could be involved in European action as well, of course, though there is a sense at Anfield that domestic success is their priority.

What to Read Next