Plenty to play for as Man City and Liverpool battle for the title

ON TOP Defending champions Manchester City are odds-on favourites to defend their crown successfully. Picture: Martin Rickett / PA Images
ON TOP Defending champions Manchester City are odds-on favourites to defend their crown successfully. Picture: Martin Rickett / PA Images

With just four games remaining for most clubs in the Premier League, there is plenty at stake in just about every game.

Manchester City and Liverpool are involved in a titanic battle for the title, four clubs are involved in the struggle to make the Champions League – not knowing whether fourth place will be good enough.

And at the wrong end of the table, Fulham and Huddersfield are gone, but Cardiff City are refusing to lie down and have managed to keep in the hunt to avoid the drop by winning at Brighton midweek.

They are two points behind Brighton and five behind Southampton, with Newcastle also still needing a couple of points to be assured of playing top-tier football next season.

The big match takes place in Wales today with Liverpool needing to get the points if they want to win their first Premier League title. Defending champions Manchester City went two points ahead of the Reds by beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 yesterday.

Unlike City, Liverpool are still involved in the Champions League and they could well be finding their resources stretched as they pile on the matches going forward.

They play Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal, but coach Jürgen Klopp said he was not particularly interested in that game at this stage.

Jürgen Klopp

“We have so many jobs to do before we play Barcelona. We play today against Cardiff that’s on my mind, not how we play against Barcelona. We have enough time for that.

“We have three days now to recover. We must be ready for another intense football game. Cardiff are now back in the race with the result [at Brighton] so I don’t think it will be any less intense than tonight. So that’s the next job.”

If the Cardiff vs Liverpool game is of importance for the title race, then the other matches today: Everton vs Manchester United and Arsenal vs Crystal Palace, as well as tomorrow’s game Chelsea vs Burnley are important for the race for third and fourth place.

Manchester have the toughest task in terms of making up points, as they need to win their matches and hope two of the clubs ahead of them stumble.

They are currently sixth and were two points behind Arsenal and three behind Spurs before the latter’s game at Man City yesterday. Chelsea are also two points ahead, but have played one game more.

Since being given a three-year contract at the end of March, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has found the going much tougher and won just three matches out of five in all competitions.

Three points in Liverpool against Everton is just about a precondition for a possible Champions League place, which could – if Spurs win the Champions League and Arsenal or Chelsea finish outside the top four in the league but win the Europa League – mean that they have to finish third.

Arsenal go into their game against Crystal Palace buoyed by a 1-0 victory in Italy against Napoli, which saw them reach the semifinals of the Europa League.

Chelsea nearly gave up a 4-1 lead against Slavia Prague, but won 4-3 in the end for a never-in-doubt 5-3 aggregate victory.

They are at home to Burnley and even though winning the European competition will be their rite of passage into the lucrative Champions League, they will not want to depend on that happening.

With Maurizio Sarri’s team still away to Leicester and Manchester United, they can’t afford to drop points against the so-called smaller clubs.

The beleaguered coach has been linked with a return to Serie A, where Roma is said to be interested in securing his services, but he will be determined to bow out of English football – if he does – on a high. And that would mean taking Chelsea into the Champions League.

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