With the title races north and south of the border closer than they have been in years, British football is gearing up for an enthralling run-in after the international break. In the Premier League, there are parallels to be drawn with the 2018/19 season when Man City pipped Liverpool to the title by a solitary point. According to Sports Betting Dime, City are heavy -450 favourites to win the league this season, while Liverpool (+333) and Chelsea (+10000) trail behind. Here we take a closer look at the top three then and now…Embed from Getty Images
Pep Guardiola’s men made history three years ago by winning a Treble, becoming the first side to retain the Premier League trophy for a decade in the process, and the Community Shield. Although they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by West Ham earlier this season, they remain firmly in contention for the title, the FA Cup and Champions League. City currently top the table by a point, and it was a similar story at the end of March 2019 as they beat Fulham 2-0 to edge Liverpool in second place by the same margin. Will it prove prophetic for the Sky Blues?
Their head-to-head record followed a familiar pattern three years ago, too. The sides could not be separated during a goalless draw at Anfield in October 2018 and they drew 2-2 in their opening clash there earlier this season. However, Man City would go on to beat the Reds 2-1 in January 2019 as they hit top form towards the end of the campaign, and you wouldn’t bet against them doing it again when the sides face each other in a potential title decider on April 10th.
City only managed to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2019 when their European adventure was brought to a dramatic end by domestic rivals Tottenham — who also came back to haunt the leaders this season by doing the double over them in the league. They’ll be hoping to go one better this season in their last-eight showdown with Manchester United slayers Atletico Madrid after the break.Embed from Getty Images
The Reds may have suffered title heartbreak three years ago after finishing with a record tally of 97 points for a second-placed team, but it only spurred them on. Jurgen Klopp’s men were crowned kings of Europe the next month when they beat Spurs 2-0 in the Champions League Final and then stormed to their historic first championship win of the Premier League era by 18 points the following season. That should serve as a stark warning for their rivals if they narrowly miss out again this time around.
City and Liverpool exchanged leads 32 times over the course of the 2018/19 season, whereas this term it looked like Guardiola’s side would run away with the league when they opened up an 11-point advantage by mid-January. Now that the Reds have cut the gap to a mere point, you can expect the final nine games to be hotly contested. But, on paper, they’ll face the trickier run-in following next month’s Champions League quarter-final clash with Benfica.
Liverpool will first have to negotiate back-to-back league and FA Cup games with title rivals City, before welcoming a United team chasing a top-four finish ahead of the Merseyside derby with relegation-threatened Everton, who’re fighting for their lives. Then it’s Newcastle and a Spurs side that, not only held them to a 2-2 draw last November, but helped the Reds get back in the title race by beating City 3-2 in February. They’ll again look to the influence of top scorer Mo Salah — who’s currently storming the charts with 20 goals and 10 assists — in these vital games as they did in 2019 when he shared the accolade with Sadio Mane after finishing the campaign on 22 goals each.Embed from Getty Images
The embattled Blues have been aptly named this season as they haven’t had their troubles to seek due to off-field issues surrounding owner Roman Abramovich dominating the headlines. But Chelsea haven’t let it affect them on the pitch while on a blistering run of form recently, winning 12 out of their last 13 games. In 2019, they finished a whopping 26 points behind City in third place and now similarly trail by 11 points, albeit with a game in hand, but boss Thomas Tuchel insisted this week he hasn’t given up hope of a title battle.
While Chelsea’s domestic form may have nosedived three years ago, the German can take heart from the fact they fared much better in Europe. They lifted the Europa League trophy under then-manager Maurizio Sarri after Eden Hazard inspired the side to a 4-1 win over Arsenal and this season they face another glittering tie, with their upcoming Champions League quarter-final against La Liga leaders Real Madrid to look forward to.
The Blues will also want to tighten their grip on third place after the international break since they’ve got London rivals Arsenal and Spurs breathing down their neck – just like they did during the fierce battle to finish best of the rest in 2019. Back then, just two points separated the Blues and the Gunners in fifth place. This season, improving their tally is probably the best they can hope for because it would take an almighty collapse from City and Liverpool for Chelsea to win their first title since 2017.