Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures in the run-in - Man City or Liverpool?
JC News|April. 15, 2019
With only four rounds of fixtures remaining and just two points separating the champions and the challengers, the finest Premier League title race of recent years is not far from being decided.
Manchester City hope to defend their crown and will do so if they win their remaining five games, but Liverpool lead the way on 85 points, having played once more than their rivals
Both sides are likely to achieve points totals which would be enough to win the league in all but a handful of post-1995 (i.e. 38-game) seasons.
Whichever one of Jürgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola finishes in second place is almost certain to have managed the Premier League’s best-ever runners-up.
And whether City defend their crown or Liverpool end their 29-year wait for a domestic title will depend, in part, on how their respective run-ins.
By calculating the average points-per-game home and away of each Premier League club this season, we can weigh up the difficulty of their respective run-ins.
Then, we can see where the title may be won and lost over coming weeks.
Current position: 1st
Average home/away points of opponents: 1.00
Like City, Liverpool are still competing in the Champions League, though the sense around Anfield is that a first domestic league title in 29 years is very much the priority.
21/04 Cardiff (A)
26/04 Huddersfield (H)
05/05 Newcastle (A)
12/05 Wolves (H)
That was certainly the vibe on Sunday, when the ghosts of 2014 were exorcised with a critical 2-0 victory over Chelsea - the side who benefited from Steven Gerrard's slip five years ago.
A trip to Cardiff next weekend is likely to be more challenging than it looks. Neil Warnock’s relegation-threatened side are scrapping for points and generally perform better when at home.
Anything other than a comfortable victory over already-relegated Huddersfield at Anfield will be classed as a severe disappointment.
St James’ Park, however, is a very different proposition. Newcastle have won five of their seven home games since the turn of the year, including a memorable victory over City in late January.
Wolves, meanwhile, have famously taken points off every member of the so-called ‘top-six’ bar one: Liverpool. They travel to Anfield on the final day and no longer have to worry about resting players for an FA Cup final.
Current position: 2nd
Average home/away points of opponents: 1.65
City’s remaining schedule is undoubtedly the more difficult one, with two games against members of the top six to come, as well as ongoing Champions League commitments.
Guardiola’s side also play just two of their remaining five games at home and face three testing away trips - on paper, at least.
First up, it is Tottenham at the Etihad, three days after a Champions League quarter-final second leg between the two sides on the same ground.
20/04 Tottenham (H)
24/04 Manchester United (A)
28/04 Burnley (A)
04/05 Leicester (H)
12/05 Brighton (A)
Spurs beat City just last week in the first leg at their new stadium. On their travels, they have won at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge already this season and narrowly missed out on picking up a point at Anfield.
Whether they take a result away from the Etihad in the league could be coloured by how they fare in the European game days earlier. Mauricio Pochettino claimed a 2-2 draw away against Guardiola's side two seasons ago.
City must then travel to Burnley (1.35 points-per-game at home) and relegation-threatened Brighton (1.38) on the final day, though the Seagulls could well be safe by the time the champions roll into town.
The visit of Brendan Rodgers to the Etihad will evoke memories of the last time City and Liverpool battled for the title in 2014. Leicester have beaten the champions already this year.
But the decisive game is likely to be at Old Trafford on 24 April, the first Manchester derby between Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and City’s game-in-hand over Liverpool.
United will need the points as they push for a top-four place. Whether they can pick themselves up after a run of recent poor form is another matter.
If the question is who has the ‘easier’ set of fixtures, the answer is certainly Liverpool. City’s next three matches look particularly challenging and having more games away than at home does not help their cause.
City’s schedule is maybe more intimidating on paper than in reality, though. Tottenham are tough, but the timing of their game, three days after the Champions League clash, could play into City's hands.
United, meanwhile, have dipped recently and look uncertain while playing in front of Old Trafford. Burnley and Brighton could well be ‘on the beach’ soon, Leicester may be there already.
City are also in menacing form, having won every game since appearing to lose hope of defending their crown with defeat to Newcastle. Liverpool have won their last five, but will nine-in-a-row prove to be a stretch too far?
Overall, City remain narrow favourites. But a gruelling month awaits them and, against all expectation at the start of the season, Liverpool are still there, in position to capitalise on any slip-up.