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Tuesday, April 23, 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 enter 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.

The points were shared at Anfield following an epic clash between Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s City, as the managerial rivals met in the Premier League for the final time. It means Arsenal lead the way, but the Premier League now returns 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.

Arsenal

Points: 64

GD: +46

Avg. opponents PpG: 1.63

Difficulty: ★★★★

Now they lead the way, 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.

Participation in the latter stages of the Champions League will also make this season’s title race a different challenge: Arsenal will face Bayern Munich and Harry Kane in their first quarter-final since 2010, with the two legs falling either side of the home clash with Aston Villa on Sunday 14 April.

A result of Arsenal’s stunning recent attacking form – with eight wins in a row in the Premier League – is the Gunners now possess the best goal difference in the Premier League.

Liverpool

Points: 64

GD: +39

Avg. opponents PpG: 1.37

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. Perhaps a 1-1 draw against the champions at Anfield was a missed opportunity, but Liverpool avoided defeat to stay ahead of Guardiola’s side at least, and their run of fixtures after the international break looks favourable.

A second trip to Old Trafford in a matter of weeks stands out for obvious reasons, and Liverpool have an even greater incentive to win now after a dramatic defeat to Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. There is also a Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park to be rearranged for later in the season.

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 going strong in the Europa League and are favourites to reach the Dublin final on 22 May. 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: 63

GD: +35

Avg. opponents PpG: 1.52

Difficulty: ★★★1/2

After a difficult first-half of the campaign, have Manchester City once again found their title-winning form when it counts? Pep Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in 19 games and were the width of the post away from grabbing a late win at Anfield, as the champions enter a crucial run of fixtures and their toughest stretch of the season so far.

City’s trip to Anfield kicked off a defining run where the champions take on four of the Premier League’s top-five. That includes the back-to-back with title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, either side of the international break, but a trip to Tottenham, where City have never won in the Premier League under Guardiola, could now be played late in the season after Guardiola’s side reached the FA Cup semi-finals. A trip to Brighton is also yet to be rearranged.

With the double-treble still on, City have the busiest schedule of the Premier League title contenders – although Luton at home in between a Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid, to be played across 9 and 17 April, could have been a lot worse. The timing of those rearranged Brighton and Tottenham trips will be crucial, however.

City’s run-in is tricky, but Guardiola’s side have been here before.

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