Liver­pool face-off with City hav­ing the best record in games against the top six

New Straits Times - - Sport -


IF the Premier League con­tained only the cur­rent top six then Liver­pool, not Chelsea, would be head­ing for the ti­tle. In nine games against those teams this sea­son Liver­pool are un­beaten and have taken an im­pres­sive 19 points which is why they will travel to third-placed Manch­ester City on Sun­day brim­ming with con­fi­dence.

Vic­tory over City, which would be there sixth in seven against the Sky Blues in the league, would pro­pel Liver­pool above Pep Guardi­ola’s side in what has be­come a five­club bat­tle for sec­ond, third and fourth spots be­hind lead­ers Chelsea.

The higher cal­i­bre the op­po­si­tion, the bet­ter Liver­pool have played this sea­son with notable vic­to­ries over Chelsea and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, a dou­ble over Arse­nal and a nar­row home win over City who will also be de­flated by their Cham­pi­ons League loss to Monaco.

Juer­gen Klopp’s side laboured to a 2-1 win over woe­ful trav­ellers Burn­ley last week­end, when all the sides around them were in FA Cup ac­tion, but for­mer Liver­pool striker John Aldridge said points not style are now the pri­or­ity.

“It was a cru­cial three points in terms of push­ing for a Cham­pi­ons League spot,” Aldridge, who won the ti­tle with Liver­pool in 1987-88, told the club’s web­site.

“Men­tally, it was a big step for­ward for this Liver­pool side. I know we’ve played two games more than both Arse­nal and Manch­ester United but I’d r a t h e r h av e t h e points on the board than fix­ture con­ges­tion.”

Liver­pool, who w e r e n e c k- a n d - neck with City at the top of the ta­ble af­ter 10 games of the sea­son, are fourth with 55 points from 28 games, one less than City and sec­ond­placed Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, both of whom have played a game fewer.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, they have a five-

points have been won by Liver­pool in matches

be­tween the top six clubs, mak­ing them the

top side point cushion on Arse­nal and six over United. What is more, Liver­pool can con­cen­trate on their fi­nal 10 games without the dis­trac­tions their top-four ri­vals must con­tend with.

While book­mak­ers have not stopped tak­ing bets on Chelsea win­ning the ti­tle yet, a 10-point lead with 11 games to go makes them over­whelm­ing favourites.

One thing is cer­tain, though, two of Manch­ester City, Liver­pool, Tot­ten­ham, Arse­nal and United will be shut out of the top­four this sea­son.

Tot­ten­ham can in­crease the pres­sure on City and Liver­pool when they host Southamp­ton ear­lier on Sun­day chas­ing a 10th con­sec­u­tive home vic­tory in the Premier League, al­though they will be without in­jured top scorer Harry Kane.

Manch­ester United, for whom the top four has re­mained just out of reach since very early in the sea­son, are away at rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Mid­dles­brough on Sun­day in their third game in six days.

An­to­nio Conte’s Chelsea, who beat United on Mon­day to set up an FA Cup semi-fi­nal against Tot­ten­ham, are away to Stoke City to­mor­row look­ing to open a 13point gap.

Fifth-placed Arse­nal be­gin the we ek­end sche dule at West Bromwich Al­bion — a side they have never failed to score against in 21 pre­vi­ous Premier League clashes.

Three de­feats in their last four league games, how­ever, mean Arsene Wenger’s side have pre­cious lit­tle mar­gin for er­ror in their quest for a 21st con­sec­u­tive top­four fin­ish. Reuters

Liver­pool’s Emre Can cel­e­brates scor­ing the sec­ond goal against Burn­ley with team­mates last week.

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