As we step closer to the end of another thrilling Premier League season, the title race remains firmly in the balance while the pursuit of the top-four finish is fiercer than ever!
Liverpool and Manchester City have been leapfrogging one another across the entire campaign with the latter currently in pole position with only a point separating them from their Merseyside competitors.
Further down the table and Spurs – having clung to the coattails of the dominant two for most of the season – have crumbled in recent weeks and are in serious danger of finishing fifth in what looked a certain three-horse race.
Meanwhile, just three points separate fourth-place Arsenal, fifth-place Manchester United and sixth-place Chelsea – who incidentally have a game in hand.
And so, the stage appears set for a dramatic finish to this fiercely competitive Premier League season, which could yet go down to the wire, but who is looking the more favourable for the run-in?
Let’s take a look at the current top 6 teams who know what’s at stake and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goal.
Manchester City (1st)
Fixtures: Fulham (A), Cardiff (H), Crystal Palace (A), Tottenham (H), Man Utd (A), Burnley (A), Leicester (H), Brighton (A)
Points won in same fixtures last season: 14
Man City’s destiny is in their own hands, but Pep Guardiola has already conceded “it is almost impossible” for his side to not drop points ahead of their final eight games, with ominous clashes against Spurs and Man Utd guaranteed to cause problems.
Guardiola and Co faltered against United last season at the Etihad; a game in which they could have clinched the title against their eternal adversaries. The Catalonian will be hoping for no such repeat of that result when his side makes the short cross-city journey to Old Trafford on April 24.
That said, their next three fixtures shouldn’t provide too many difficulties, but the final three – sandwiched between the Spurs and United ties – could cause a few concerns – Burnley and Brighton have proven formidable at home, while Leicester look revitalised under Brendan Rodgers, who may want to gift his former employers a few favours, as Manuel Pellegrini did for City last month.
Fixtures: Fulham (A), Tottenham (H), Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Cardiff (H), Huddersfield (H), Newcastle (A), Wolves (H)
Points won in same fixtures last season: 9
Any talk of a blip on Merseyside has brushed aside after a comprehensive win against Burnley on Sunday, ramping seismic pressure on City in the process.
Jurgen Klopp has two notably tricky contests in his run-in, against top four competitors Spurs and Chelsea, but the German will be encouraged that the blockbuster clashes are set to be contested on home turf, with Anfield proving a sanctuary for the Reds this campaign.
Those two matches could make or break Liverpool’s season, but if they manage to overcome those monumental obstacles then they will have a relatively easy run of fixtures, playing all three clubs who currently occupy the relegation zone.
Fixtures: Liverpool (A), Brighton (H), Huddersfield (H), Man City (A), West Ham (H), Bournemouth (A), Everton (H), Crystal Palace (H)
Points won in same fixtures last season: 17
Spurs are domestically in dire straits at present having not won in four league matches. They are teetering on the brink of collapse with the club far from their devastating best, producing unusually cumbersome and error-prone performances in recent outings.
Mauricio Pochettino labelled his side “arrogant” after capitulating against Southampton at the weekend, with his side guilty of defensive aberrations and complacency at the St Mary’s Stadium. Well, the Argentine will now have the task of having to channel that arrogance and emit a more defiant mentality when his side travel to both Liverpool and Man City in the coming weeks.
Spurs have a number of other difficult fixtures including a run of West Ham, Bournemouth and Everton, with all three matches potential challenges. Given Spurs’ current form, this could prove a hard-pressed few months.
Fixtures: Newcastle (H), Everton (A), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (A), Brighton (H), Burnley (A), Wolves (A)
Points won in same fixtures last season: 15
Having become the first home team to beat and keep a clean sheet against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd in the Premier League on Sunday, Arsenal fans will certainly be buoyed by their recent domestic form.
Unai Emery has rediscovered his side’s stellar autumnal form with four wins from their previous five encounters, including a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the North London Derby, and with no ‘big six’ matches to contend for their final eight matches, the Gunners have a very favourable run-in.
Arsenal have been bereft of Champions League football for the second season in a row, and so, Emery has the perfect opportunity to restore European equilibrium at the Emirates and cap off a fine maiden campaign in the hot seat.
Manchester United (5th)
Fixtures: Watford (H), Wolves (A), West Ham (H), Everton (A), Man City (H), Chelsea (H), Huddersfield (A), Cardiff (H).
Points won in same fixtures last season: 12
The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer renaissance hit a stumbling block on Sunday, losing 2-0 to Arsenal, but the Norwegian has already exhibited his tactical nous since taking the reins and could yet save United’s season with a top-four finish, despite the recent hiccup.
However, it will not be gift wrapped to him as United face an extremely menacing run-in, with the next six games all potential slip-ups, while Solskjaer will lock horns with his former club, Cardiff, on the final game of the season – a match the Bluebirds may have to win in order to survive.
It will not be an easy task by any means, but Solskjaer has proven a man up to the task, overcoming a number of strenuous hurdles already; he will just have to keep channelling his inner Fergie and keep spirits aloft as we enter the closing stages.
Fixtures: Everton (A), Cardiff (A), West Ham (H), Liverpool (A), Burnley (H), Man Utd (A), Watford (H), Leicester (A), Brighton (H)
Points won in same fixtures last season: 12
Of the next nine fixtures, Chelsea are only predicted to pick up roughly 13 points, which could spell danger for Sarri and his future tenure at Stamford Bridge.
The Italian coach has come under the spotlight at numerous times across the season, but he has enjoyed a resurgence in recent weeks. That considered, the forthcoming run-in will ultimately determine whether the club stick or twist this summer.
Liverpool and Man Utd away are the two standout fixtures, with the latter a potential top-four determiner, but with awkward encounters against Everton, West Ham, Watford and Leicester on the horizon, Sarri will have to pull it out of the bag and mastermind a consistent run of form.