Can Man City make the Premier League a single race for decades?
Just over two weeks ago, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea appeared to be locked in a dramatic three-way Premier League title fight, but it is now looking like a one-horse race. Can Man City make the Premier League a single race for decades?
Before the games began on December 14, the three clubs were separated by only two points. By the conclusion of the month, City has pulled eight points clear of Chelsea in second place.
On a night when injury-hit Chelsea conceded a last-gasp equaliser at home to Brighton, Pep Guardiola’s players were not at their best at Brentford but did enough to win 1-0.
The day before, Liverpool had lost ground to a tenacious and motivated Leicester side after Mohamed Salah failed to score a first-half penalty.
In the run-up to the new year, AFP Sport examines some of the major aspects in the title battle.
If City beats fourth-placed Arsenal on Saturday, they might go 11 points clear, with Chelsea and Liverpool meeting the next day at Stamford Bridge.
They are already heavy favourites to win the Premier League for the fourth time in five years, and a double-digit advantage even in early January could be too much for their opponents.
Guardiola, obviously, refuses to acknowledge the title fight is gone, praising City’s competitors’ talent.
“There are a lot of games left,” he remarked. “We are eight points ahead, but there are still 54 points to be won and many tough games to be played.”
“I won’t believe anyone who says it’s already been done.” The squads we have with Chelsea and Liverpool are outstanding.”
After his side’s 1-0 defeat at Leicester, Klopp said that Liverpool, who are now a point behind Chelsea, should forget about catching City unless they improved in their game.
If either side is to have any hope of catching City, Sunday’s encounter at Stamford Bridge is a must-win.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel reveals he would select his lineup for the match against Liverpool based on “trial and error” due to the toll injuries and coronavirus have taken on his squad.
Reece James, a winger, hobbled out against Brighton with a hamstring issue just a day after the club announced Ben Chilwell would require knee surgery, which he has now had.
The European champions will be concerned about Thiago Silva’s thigh condition and Andreas Christensen’s back problem, as well as those who are still suffering from Covid-19, such as Timo Werner.
One bright spot for Tuchel is the return to form of Romelu Lukaku, who scored for the second game in a row after making his first league start against Brighton since mid-October due to ankle injury and Covid isolation.
Tuchel acknowledged, though, that he must continue to monitor the Belgian forward’s progress.
Klopp has had to juggle a number of players in recent weeks due to coronavirus, including Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, and Thiago Alcantara, despite the fact that they were on a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions before the setback at Leicester.
Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, has just minimal concerns. Despite the absence of Kyle Walker, Rodri, and John Stones from the Brentford team, he was still able to choose a bench full of excellent players.
With the Premier League’s top scorer Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita all travelling to the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins early next month, Klopp faces a growing dilemma.
Arsenal with an impressive form now will miss their stopper Thomas Partey of the Ghana Black Stars.
On the other side is Jordan Ayew of Crystal Palace. Jordan is among the best strikers in the English Premier League this season and he has been contributing a lot for his team.
The majority of the goal-scoring responsibility will fall on Diogo Jota, who has 10 goals in the league, but other forwards will have to step up and the defense will have to tighten up after only one clean sheet in four league games.
Chelsea will be without first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, but Morocco’s preliminary Africa Cup of Nations lineup did not include midfielder Hakim Ziyech.
Guardiola will only be without Algerian Riyad Mahrez, who will be more than compensated for by Raheem Sterling’s return to form.
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