Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures in the run-in - Man City or Liverpool?

Mark Critchley
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Premier League title race: Who has the best remaining fixtures - Man City or Liverpool?

With six games remaining and one point separating champions and challengers, the Premier League title race has well and truly entered the home straight.

Manchester City hope to defend their crown and have won their last eight games on the bounce, though Liverpool remain clinging to their coat-tails, ready to pounce on any slip-up.

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 likely 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.

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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.

The run-ins

Manchester City

Current position: 1st

Points: 80

Average home/away points of opponents: 1.52

Of the two contenders, City’s remaining schedule is undoubtedly the most difficult, without even factoring in the FA Cup on top of their Champions League commitments.

Guardiola’s side play just two of their remaining six games at home and face four away testing away trips - on paper, at least.

First up, Crystal Palace. City were held to a goalless draw there last year, ending their record 18-game winning run. Palace also beat City at the Etihad in December.

But Roy Hodgson’s men are the only top-flight side to have picked up more points on their travels than at home this season. Selhurst Park has hardly been a fortress this term.

Tottenham then visit the Etihad, days after a Champions League quarter-final second leg on the same ground.

Remaining fixtures

14/04 Crystal Palace (A)

20/04 Tottenham (H)

24/04 Manchester United (A)

28/04 Burnley (A)

04/05 Leicester (H) *

12/05 Brighton (A)

* Date to be confirmed

Spurs have won at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge already this season and narrowly missed out on picking up a point at Anfield.

City must also travel to relegation-threatened Burnley (1.25 points-per-game at home) and Brighton (1.47), though both 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 'true' game-in-hand over Liverpool.

United are likely to need the points as they push for a top-four place. Whether they can pick themselves after a run of recent poor form is another matter.

Liverpool

Current position: 2nd​​

Points: 79

Average home/away points of opponents: 1.19

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.

Klopp’s side can return to the summit on Friday but will need to overcome a resurgent Southampton who have won three of their last four under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Liverpool’s last game against a ‘top six’ club comes with Chelsea’s visit to Anfield and Maurizio Sarri’s men have lost four of their six away games in 2019.

Remaining fixtures

05/04 Southampton (A)

14/04 Chelsea (H)

21/04 Cardiff (A)

26/04 Huddersfield (H)

04/05 Newcastle (A) *

12/05 Wolves (H)

* Date to be confirmed

A trip to Cardiff the following weekend is likely to be more challenging than it looks. Neil Warnock’s will still be scrapping for points and are a better side when at home.

Anything other than a comfortable victory over Huddersfield at Anfield will be classed as a disappointment.

St James’ Park, however, is a very different proposition. Newcastle have won all but one of their six home games since the turn of the year.

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.

Verdict

If the question is who has the ‘easier’ set of fixtures, the answer is Liverpool. City’s next four 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. Palace’s home record this year is poor. Tottenham and United have dipped recently. Burnley and Brighton may well be ‘on the beach’ soon.

City are also simply in better form than Liverpool. While Guardiola’s side have won eight in eight, Klopp’s side have won four and drawn four. There’s also the all-important one-point advantage to consider.

Altogether, that makes City 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.