With the Premier League title race taking a breather for two weeks, we assess what’s next and answer all the key questions.
Manchester City retook top spot on goal difference from Liverpool on Sunday night with a rampaging 6-0 win over Chelsea but Liverpool have a game in hand over last season’s league champions. Meanwhile, Tottenham are just five points back, also carrying a game in hand over City.
It’s looking increasingly likely we could be witnessing one of the most exciting title races in recent Premier League history.
So, what’s next?
When are the next fixtures?
Due to European and domestic competitions, the next batch of Premier League fixtures are not until February 22 when Cardiff vs Watford and West Ham vs Fulham, which is live on Sky Sports on Friday Night Football, kick-starts an exciting weekend of football.
In terms of the title race, Tottenham travel to Burnley on Saturday lunchtime, also live on Sky Sports, before Liverpool face a trip to rivals Manchester United on a huge Sunday of live action.
With Manchester City in action on Sunday against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final, each title challenger will have played the same number of games again come the Sunday night.
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Who has the easiest run-in?
Liverpool have, on paper, the most straightforward run-in – their opponents have an average position of 11.8. Unlike the other two, they still have fixtures to play against Huddersfield and Fulham, who are becoming near-certainties for relegation, while they also are still to face Burnley (h), Cardiff (a), Southampton (a) and Newcastle (a) – all of whom are struggling towards the bottom of the league.
Tottenham’s run-in appears the trickiest. The teams they face are on average a whole position higher than their title rivals’ opponents, at 10.7. Plus, they still need to travel to both Liverpool and Manchester City.
Of their 12 remaining games only four are against teams in the top eight. Three are away, while Man City and Liverpool travel to one top-eight team each, and Spurs’ sole home game against a ‘big six’ club comes against arch-rivals Arsenal on March 2.
With the Chelsea game ticked off, Manchester City will be confident of picking up maximum points from their remaining home games considering their amazing record at the Etihad Stadium.
Aside from visiting Manchester United, Bournemouth are the only team currently inside the top 11 Manchester City have to face on their travels.
Premier League title run-ins Man City Liverpool Tottenham – Man Utd (a) Burnley (a) West Ham (h) Watford (h) Chelsea (a) Bournemouth (a) Everton (a) Arsenal (h) Watford (h) Burnley (h) Southampton (a) Man Utd (a) Fulham (a) Crystal Palace (h) Fulham (a) Tottenham (h) Liverpool (a) Cardiff (h) Southampton (a) Brighton (h) Crystal Palace (a) Chelsea (h) Huddersfield (h) Tottenham (h) Cardiff (a) Man City (a) Burnley (a) Huddersfield (h) West Ham (h) Leicester (h) Newcastle (a) Bournemouth (a) Brighton (h) Wolves (h) Everton (h) When do the top three play each other?
It’s worth putting a ring around March 31 and the weekend commencing April 20* in your diaries. Tottenham’s title challenge will most probably be made or broken with games against the top two.
They face Liverpool on March 31 while there could be a big swing if they can stay on Manchester City’s coattails ahead of their fixture at the Etihad in that aforementioned weekend in April.
*These dates are subject to change as TV selections have not yet been announced
What the pundits say…?Graeme Souness
“City have put a marker down. Liverpool are going to have to win every single game to win this league. City have the bit between their teeth right now.
“If that is their form between now and the end of the season, Liverpool have to win every game. That’s what they’re looking at.”
“You look at it now with regards to points totals and whoever does finish second, how unlucky are they going to be? What City have done is they’ve got through their week where if you are Liverpool, you’re looking at it and it’s Arsenal and Chelsea – two big hitters – and Everton away, not an easy game.
“But they’ve got nine points – and now Liverpool have their big week where City will be thinking: ‘Manchester United away, Watford at home and Everton away’.
“What Liverpool have got to do is they’ve got to respond in that week. If they come out of that week and they’re still top, it’s a case of right back at you, City.”
“Manchester City have set themselves a standard in the last week. If they are going to win the league they need to maintain that standard every week because they can’t afford to make mistakes.
“Liverpool are a very good side and they will realise they are in for a major battle. Liverpool were seven points ahead a few weeks ago, but now City are definitely favourites for the title from what I am seeing.
“Sergio Aguero has lifted City in the last month. He has grabbed games by the scruff of the neck and has been a champion player. He is standing up. If City are going to win back-to-back titles I think they can look towards the last month and think about his influence, he has been outstanding.
“If you look at the size of Liverpool and the fact they haven’t won the title in so long, there is an air of desperation at the club to win the title. A few weeks ago they were seven points clear and when Manchester City lost at Newcastle you thought it was there – what an opportunity for Liverpool that was. They still have that chance, but it has become a lot more difficult in the last week.
“Tottenham will be two points behind Manchester City if they win their game in hand, which is incredible with no money spent. Look at the depth of the City squad and the riches of the squad, then you think what Mauricio Pochettino is achieving with a squad that hasn’t had any investment in the last 18 months. They deserve great credit.”