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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures – Liverpool, Man City or Arsenal?

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Football

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The Premier League is heading for a classic title race, with Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal set for a three-way battle as we approach the run-in.

Manchester City, the defending champions, are aiming to win a fourth league title in a row under Pep Guardiola – a feat that has never been achieved in the history of English football. City blew Arsenal away in last year’s run-in, but the Gunners are back in the fight this campaign and have been joined by a resurgent Liverpool side – who are set for an emotional final months of Jurgen Klopp’s time on Merseyside.

Sunday will stage what could be the final clash between Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s City, in what is a potential title decider at Anfield. The Premier League will then return from March’s international break for another blockbuster fixture, as Mikel Arteta’s side visit the Etihad to take on the champions, having already beaten City earlier this season.

After that, as the Premier League title race enters April, the run-in can truly begin. But which team has the best fixtures and who has the hardest run of games to end the season? Here’s where the title could be won and lost.

Liverpool

Points: 63

Avg. opponents PpG: 1.44

Difficulty: ★★★1/2

After near misses in 2019 and 2022, Liverpool know they must be close to perfect to dethrone Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the title race. This Sunday’s clash at Anfield could go a long way – with Guardiola yet to beat Liverpool at Anfield in front of a crowd.

From there, the Reds have a favourable run, although a second trip to Old Trafford in a matter of weeks (following the FA Cup quarter-final on 17 March) stands out for obvious reasons, as does a Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park, in a fixture could be rearranged for late in the season. Jurgen Klopp does not have the best away records at Liverpool’s two biggest rivals.

Apart from that, the key clashes to look out for could be against sides chasing Champions League football, with fixtures against Tottenham at Anfield and a trip to Aston Villa giving Liverpool a tricky final three when Wolves at home on the final day is also considered.

Having already won the Carabao Cup, Klopp’s side are also still in the FA Cup and Europa League. In 2022, they took their pursuit of the quadruple all the way – even if they fell short in the Champions League final and in the title race. The Reds are once again heading for a dramatic final few weeks – but could Klopp lift the Premier League in his final season?

Manchester City

Points: 62

Avg. opponents PpG: 1.62

Difficulty: ★★★★

After a difficult first-half of the campaign, have the champions once again found their title-winning form when it counts? Pep Guardiola’s side have won nine of their last 10 in the Premier League, but until beating Manchester United on Sunday, all of those wins were against teams who were eighth or lower in the table.

That all changes as City head to Anfield, kicking off a run where the champions take on four of the Premier League’s top-five in their next six fixtures. That includes the back-to-back with title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, either side of the international break, followed by a trip to Tottenham, where City have never won in the Premier League under Guardiola.

If City come through that run on top, they will surely end up as champions for a fourth straight year. A trip to Brighton is yet to be rearranged, while City have Luton and Wolves at home in between potential Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals in April and early May. City’s run-in is tricky, but the difficulty is front-loaded.

Arsenal

Points: 61

Avg. opponents PpG: 1.54

Difficulty: ★★★★

Have Mikel Arteta’s side learnt their lesson from last season? The Gunners won just three of their final nine Premier League games last year, including a four-game winless run, as they fell away in the title race.

They cannot afford a repeat of that and it will start, you would think, with their return to the Etihad on 31 March. Arsenal have lost eight in a row away to Manchester City and their last win came in January 2015, so even a draw there would be a huge boost ahead of April and May.

There, Arsenal will also have to face tricky games against Aston Villa and Tottenham – their trip across North London in late April should be an epic. Visits to Roberto de Zerbi’s Brighton and Gary O’Neil’s Wolves could be difficult, too, while Old Trafford looms large on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Arsenal lost the title away from home last season – with defeat at the Etihad and costly dropped points from winning positions at Anfield and the London Stadium. Their fate this season will be determined on the road again, while participation in the latter stages of the Champions League will also make this season’s title race a different challenge.

A result of Arsenal’s stunning recent attacking form – and Monday’s 6-0 win at Sheffield United – is the Gunners now possess the best goal difference in the Premier League.

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