Man City have taken top spot but they face a congested fixture list, potential player burnout and still need to travel to their bogey team… why the title race is NOT over for Arsenal and Liverpool

There are just six games to go and things are beginning to look ominous. Manchester City are top of the Premier League.

The weekend’s results have put City firmly in the driving seat as they look to seal an unprecedented fourth straight title.

Pep Guardiola‘s side laid down the gauntlet on Saturday with a five-star showing against Luton Town as they swept aside the Hatters 5-1.

Then on Sunday afternoon, Liverpool suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace – a result that saw them fail to move from third to first.

Then to make matters better for City, Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at home by Aston Villa to see them relinquish top spot to Guardiola’s side.

As things currently stand, City hold a two-point lead over Arsenal and Liverpool, but Mail Sport are on hand to explain why fans of the latter duo shouldn’t be too pessimistic.

It was a great weekend for Manchester City who regained top spot in the Premier League

City regained top spot after Liverpool suffered a shock 1-0 defeat by Crystal Palace

City regained top spot after Liverpool suffered a shock 1-0 defeat by Crystal Palace

Arsenal also lost on Sunday afternoon, losing 2-0 at home to Aston Villa to miss out on top spot

Arsenal also lost on Sunday afternoon, losing 2-0 at home to Aston Villa to miss out on top spot

FIXTURE SCHEDULING

Once again, let’s stress – it’s only two points separating City from Arsenal and Liverpool. That is not insurmountable.

And with the way the Premier League fixture scheduling is laid out, both chasing clubs can now put pressure on the team to beat.

And that is because both sides now play twice in the top flight before City continue their own title charge.

City are not playing in the Premier League until April 25 when they take on Brighton due to their FA Cup involvement, meaning it is an opportunity for both Arsenal and Liverpool to potentially go four points above their rival – albeit having played two games more.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta's side now play twice before City play again in the league

As does Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool outfit

Mikel Arteta (left) and Jurgen Klopp’s side now play twice before City play again in the league

The road to attempting that begins this coming Saturday evening when Arsenal travel to Wolves before hosting bitter rivals Chelsea three days later on April 23. For Liverpool, they have a trip to Fulham on Sunday afternoon before making the short trip to their fierce rivals Everton on April 24. 

The following weekend (April 27-28), City are the last to play – with Liverpool heading to West Ham in the Saturday lunchtime match, while Arsenal head to north London foes Tottenham in the early Sunday kick-off. Following that encounter, City then travel to Nottingham Forest.

In fact, even the week after on May 4 Arsenal play before City once again – hosting Bournemouth in the Saturday, 12.30pm game, five hours prior to the reigning champions entertain Wolves. Liverpool face Tottenham the next day.

You have to go until May 11, and the penultimate week of the season, before City can apply pressure on their rivals. That weekend they travel to Fulham in the Saturday 12.30pm kick-off. The following day they can put their feet up and watch Manchester United versus Arsenal (May 12) before Aston Villa versus Liverpool on the Monday night (May 13).

City have until May 11 before they play before either of their title rivals in a matchweek

City have until May 11 before they play before either of their title rivals in a matchweek

FIXTURE CONGESTION

This point ties in with the next two sections below (more on those in a moment). City’s fixture scheduling means their remaining Premier League calendar is slightly more bunched up than their title rivals.

With everyone playing in midweek next week (April 23-25), City also have another midweek fixture to contend with in the final week of the season with a game at Tottenham (May 14).

That tricky trip to north London is sandwiched between the visit of Fulham (May 11) and the last game of the season at home to West Ham (May 19).

City manager Pep Guardiola faces a tricky trip to Tottenham in the final week of the season

City manager Pep Guardiola faces a tricky trip to Tottenham in the final week of the season

CHALLENGING ON THREE FRONTS

Then there is the small matter of a historic two-peat Treble that City are juggling. With all three teams still in Europe, City are the best equipped – and arguably – most likely to go the furthest.

The reigning Champions League winners have a quarter-final second leg at home to Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Arsenal travel to Bayern Munich on the same day. Meanwhile, Liverpool head to Atalanta in the Europa League.

With City playing at home, they will fancy their chances against the Spanish giants with the tie tantalisingly poised at 3-3. Arsenal face a tougher task over in Germany, although the scoreline is level at 2-2. As for Liverpool, they need to dig deep and create another memorable European night as they trail 3-0 to their Italian opponents after an awful quarter-final first-leg showing.

It is not inconceivable to reason that City could be the sole English representative from that trio in Europe by Thursday night (not forgetting that West Ham and Aston Villa are also in action). While that will be bitterly disappointing to Arsenal and Liverpool, those extra European fixtures will just put further strain on City’s squad, an extra – albeit welcomed – pressure.

In contrast, their title rivals would be fresher with their sole focus just being on the Premier League.

Oh, and if that isn’t enough for Guardiola and Co, then there is the small matter of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea too.

City could have more European games to contend with if they overcome Real Madrid this week

City could have more European games to contend with if they overcome Real Madrid this week

POTENTIAL BURNOUT TO KEY STARS

That extra strain could lead to injuries and this is something Rodri has already warned about. Following last Tuesday’s 3-3 draw at Real Madrid, it was revealed that Manchester City are devising a plan to give Rodri some much-needed rest after the midfielder admitted tiredness.

Rodri had held discussions with the Treble winners over his workload last summer but has since made 47 appearances for club and country this season.

He was candid about the potential for burnout heading into the campaign, claiming that featuring in up to 60 matches is ‘not healthy’ and telling City pushing his body to ‘the limit’ couldn’t happen for a second consecutive year.

‘I do need a rest,’ the midfielder said. ‘It is something we are planning. Let’s see how we speak, how we live the situation. Sometimes it is what it is [and] I need to adjust.’

Rodri claims he needs a rest and City are planning to give him time off as they did vs Luton

Rodri claims he needs a rest and City are planning to give him time off as they did vs Luton

City stuck to their plan on Saturday, with the Spaniard an unused substitute in the dominant display against Luton.

The 27-year-old is integral to the way Guardiola plays and City have found identifying an understudy difficult, evidenced by a torrid spell for Kalvin Phillips. Mateo Kovacic deputised at the base of their midfield against Luton but struggled there in September’s defeat at Wolves when Rodri was suspended.

Guardiola had questioned suggestions that Rodri appeared jaded in the aftermath of last weekend’s 4-2 victory at Crystal Palace, where he had looked leggy and was uncharacteristically sloppy in possession.

That dip in performance continued in the first half at the Bernabeu before Rodri re-found his composure.

Any fatigue the midfielder conductor feels going into the back end of the season could be keenly felt with just six games left of the Premier League title race remaining. Guardiola will be acutely aware of this.

He warned ahead of the season it would not be healthy for him to play almost 60 games again

He warned ahead of the season it would not be healthy for him to play almost 60 games again 

BOGEY TEAM LIES IN WAIT

Last but not least, there is one team who could have a pivotal say in this title race and it’s Arsenal’s biggest enemy: Tottenham.

Spurs, who sit fifth in the table, still have to face the top three with their game against City the penultimate match of the season.

Although City won there in the FA Cup earlier this year, travelling to that part of north London has proved fruitless for the team in blue in recent years.

Since Spurs’ stunning Tottenham Hotspur ground opened in April 2019, City have made five visits in the Premier League – losing five times to four different managers and failed to even score a goal, missing a couple of penalties along the way.

City haven't won in the Premier League at Spurs since 2018 - including a 1-0 defeat last season

City haven’t won in the Premier League at Spurs since 2018 – including a 1-0 defeat last season

Guardiola is fully aware of this hoodoo on his back, stating in an interview with Sky Sports in late May 2023, when asked what could be the next challenge after a treble-winning campaign.

‘Score a goal against Spurs away,’ he joked. ‘I stay because I want to beat Spurs away.’

All eyes on May 14 then. For once, Tottenham will have the support of their greatest rival.

Funny what a title race can do a team, hey?


Source From: Premier League News, Fixtures and Results | Mail Online

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