Liverpool and Manchester City are divided by just four points – but which team will go on to win the Premier League? We examine the stats…
Defending champions Manchester City turned up the heat on league leaders Liverpool with a 2-1 win over their title rivals at the start of January, reducing the Reds’ lead at the top to just four points.
With 15 games to go, that margin remains in place after Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 4-3 at Anfield on Saturday and City cruised to a 3-0 win at rock-bottom Huddersfield.
Do City have what it takes to overhaul the remaining gap and claim their fourth Premier League crown? Or will Liverpool hold on to their advantage and end their long wait for the title? We check the clubs’ stats this season to see how they size up…
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have topped the table for seven successive matchdays now, ever since City suffered a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea on December 8, and the Reds put four past Bournemouth that same day.
Despite initially bouncing back with a 3-1 win against Everton, City then lost back-to-back games against Crystal Palace and Leicester.
In contrast, Liverpool have only dropped points against top-six opposition: drawing with Chelsea, Arsenal and City, before losing the return fixture in Manchester.
Goals scored and conceded
The graphic below shows how the Reds swept opponents aside with growing ease, particularly after the 3-0 win at Watford in November – but have dipped since their defeat at City.
Perhaps most importantly, Klopp’s side have only shipped more than one goal on two occasions – against City earlier this month and against Palace on Saturday.
City’s chart appears as the polar opposite, starting the season in blistering form, smashing six past Huddersfield and Southampton – but it has been a gradual decline since a convincing 4-0 win at West Ham in November.
The impact of City’s defeat at Stamford Bridge can be seen clearly in the graphic below, but the customary expansive winning margins are returning, sparked from goal routs against Rotherham and Burton in domestic cup competitions.
Expected Goals (xG)
But if we look at the expected goal values of each game, Liverpool’s current league standing could be judged fortunate.
The data suggests Klopp’s side should have drawn with Leicester in September and produced an inferior number of chances against City (in October), Huddersfield and Arsenal – but should have claimed victory at the Etihad.
So Klopp’s side should have dropped 11 points this season, instead of nine.
City’s xG suggests the champions have come out on top in every single Premier League game to date, bar parity with Leicester on Boxing Day and inferiority to Liverpool this month.
So, based on xG, City should have dropped only five points this term, instead of 13, and would top the table by six points.
Pl table based on xG results PL position Club Points 1 Man City 64 2 Liverpool 58 Attack
Despite leading City in the league table, Liverpool have recorded fewer goals, shots, shots on target and created far fewer chances.
The Reds have benefited from converting five penalties, with Mohamed Salah netting 14 of Liverpool’s 27 goals scored with a left boot – while being half as likely to score from long range than City.
The distribution tabs in these interactive graphics reveal Liverpool are more direct, while City are more likely to play the ball sideways or backwards. Again, Guardiola’s side reigns supreme for passing, accuracy, crossing and possession.
The biggest improvement at Anfield this season has been a wholesale transformation in defence, with Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson helping to prevent the haphazard moments experienced during previous campaigns.
Where City reign supreme offensively, the Reds have emerged as the league’s most watertight outfit, conceding a league-low 13 goals and keeping a league-high 13 clean sheets.
In addition, Klopp’s side emerge superior for physicality, recording more tackles, duels and aerial challenges – with a greater degree of accuracy in all metrics bar tackling.
Liverpool were in blistering form heading into the festive schedule in 2016/17, as Klopp’s high-intensity style took the Premier league by storm – but his side capitulated in January, which was widely attributed to burn out.
Indeed, Liverpool were the league’s top runners that season, but slipped to fifth in 2017/18 and rank seventh this term – suggesting Klopp is managing physical exertions more carefully.
The graphic below shows how many kilometres both clubs have travelled per matchday this season.
Liverpool clearly dropped their levels during the busy December schedule, while only smashing the 120 km threshold on two occasions: once against Burnley last month after making seven changes and against City this year.
Meanwhile, City have been on an upward trajectory of late, recording a season-low distance of 105km in the 2-0 win against Brighton in September before soaring to 120km against Spurs the following month.
Both clubs recorded their highest distance covered this season when they faced off at the Etihad – each hitting 122km.
Line-up changes and consistency
Both managers have maintained fairly consistent line-ups while managing fixture congestion and squad rotation.
Liverpool and City made their most changes for matchday 15, against Burnley and Watford, respectively – the second of three games within a week in early December.
Klopp also appeared to rest players against Cardiff in October, while Guardiola made five changes to rest key members of his squad against Southampton last month – four days before his side beat Liverpool.
In terms of formation consistency, Klopp has grown fond of a 4-2-3-1 this term, deploying it in equal measure to his traditionally favoured 4-3-3, but has used it only once against a top-six side, with handsome dividends: a 5-1 win over Arsenal.
The Reds also experimented with a 4-4-1-1 in their 3-1 win at United last month – a result that proved to be Jose Mourinho’s curtain call at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, City have started 18 of their 22 games in a 4-3-3, but Guardiola clearly considers additional defensive measures against top sides, setting up in a 4-2-3-1 against Arsenal in August and Liverpool in October.
Strength in depth and dependencies
The interactive graphic below suggests Liverpool are more dependent on individual players than their rivals and could be affected more severely if one or more of those players are sidelined.
Salah has rekindled last season’s form and leads the Premier league goal chart with 16 goals – nearly twice as many as the Reds’ next top scorers Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on nine goals each.
In contrast, City’s top scorers Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling share 10 goals each, followed closely behind by Leroy Sane (eight) and David Silva (six), while bit-part Gabriel Jesus has been on hand with five of his own.
The tabs in the graphic above reveal how Salah tops the Liverpool chart for attempts, assists and chances created by some way, while City’s goal creation is far more evenly distributed among the team.
Liverpool’s chances of claiming their first Premier League title appear to rest heavily on Salah staying fit, in addition to Alisson and Van Dijk.
The graphic below shows the difficulty of opponents in the games remaining this season, based on clubs’ current league standings.
The current indication is that Liverpool have an easier run-in, closing the campaign with fixtures against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Wolves, compared with City facing Spurs, Burnley, Leicester and Brighton.
City will be looking to maintain their current upturn in form and glean points from tough back-to-back games with Chelsea and Arsenal next month, while the Reds have a progressively easier run after facing Manchester United.
Guardiola could be looking to capitalise in late March and early April when his side face a favourable run of games, as the Reds clash with Tottenham and Chelsea between a trip to Southampton.
But a key fixture could be when City host Spurs on April 20, which marks the beginning of Liverpool’s easier run-in to the final day.
If the teams remain neck and neck at this late stage, a slip against Mauricio Pochettino’s men could hand Liverpool a timely advantage.
City are on course to win an unprecedented quadruple and have the greatest risk of fixture congestion, reaching the Carabao Cup final before an FA Cup fourth-round tie with Burnley and facing a favourable clash with Schalke in the Champions League round of 16 in mid-February.
In contrast, Klopp only has his sights set on the Premier League and Champions League after his side were eliminated from domestic cups, but a tough tie with European giants Bayern Munich awaits in the round of 16 – which could leave all hands on deck for the domestic crown.
City appear to be marginally superior offensively, while Liverpool’s defensive robustness coupled with Salah’s form has helped propel Klopp’s side to league-topping heights.
However, xG suggests City have been relatively unlucky with their results to date, although there was a clear festive hangover.
Both bosses are managing their side’s physical exertions to last the distance with fairly consistent line-ups, although City are more static in formation and Liverpool are less predictable against lesser sides.
Critically, the Reds’ hopes of ending their 29-year wait for a top-flight title appear to rest heavily on Salah’s fitness, along with defensive anchors Alisson and Van Dijk.
But Liverpool face a tough test to hold the goalscoring juggernauts City at bay – even with a fully-fit squad.
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