Thursday, April 25, 2024

How the Premier League title race is shaping up – the key questions answered

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Apr 2024

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admitted the Premier League title race is “not in our hands” after a goalless draw against Arsenal on Sunday.

With just nine games left in the season, City sit one point behind Arsenal and three adrift of leaders Liverpool, who Guardiola conferred as favourites to end his side’s streak of three successive titles.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how the title race is shaping up.

What happened over the weekend?

Liverpool moved into pole position as they bid to give Jurgen Klopp the perfect send-off by coming from a goal behind to beat Brighton 2-1.

The Merseysiders were boosted a few hours later by a bore draw at the Etihad Stadium. Arsenal were at the summit prior to the latest round of fixtures but would have been the happier of the two teams after nullifying City’s attackers.

Guardiola said afterwards: “Always who is first is favourite. The second favourite is Arsenal and we are third.”

Was Guardiola correct?

Maybe, although that was far from him waving the white flag in their attempt at a historic fourth league title in a row – Huddersfield, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have also had a hat-trick of successive crowns but no team has yet done a quadruple.

City will likely have to be close to perfect if they are to pip Liverpool and Arsenal but they have a history of being strong finishers.

At the same stage last season, City were five points adrift of Arsenal but managed to reel them in then overtake them.

Are there any differences between then and now?

Last season, City still had Arsenal to play and triumphed 4-1 at home before the Gunners fell away at the business end.

This time, City can win all nine remaining fixtures and still lose out because they have already played Liverpool and Arsenal twice.

Liverpool have been the biggest thorn in City’s side in the Guardiola era, relegating them to second spot in 2019-20, remarkably their only slip-up in six seasons.

So all Liverpool have to do is win their remaining games?

It would be a major surprise if it turned out simple as that – and that is not a slur on Liverpool’s ability to hold their nerve as they have proved their mettle time and again under Klopp.

But the pressure will continue to build and there are a few tricky fixtures, including visits to north-west rivals Manchester United on Sunday and Everton on April 24.

City next face Villa – the last side to beat them – on Wednesday while both Guardiola’s team and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal still have to go to Tottenham between now and the end of the campaign.

All three teams are still in the hunt for European crowns, too – City and Arsenal in the Champions League and Liverpool in the Europa League – and this may be a distracting factor as well.

So there are still plenty of twists and turns to come, then?

In all likelihood, yes.

Liverpool have the edge but they have never had the threat of City breathing down their necks – the Reds were out of sight in 2020 when the crunch time came.

City have proved they enjoy being the hunters, even if they have not been firing on all cylinders recently, and Guardiola will surely not want Klopp to have the last laugh in their rivalry.

Arsenal cannot be discounted either and look a better team than the one that subsided last season, as evidenced by Sunday’s stalemate after a thrashing by City 12 months ago.

In short, a dramatic finale looms.

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SoccerNews

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