By – Thiruselvam
Manchester City can top the Premier League for a few hours at least if they beat Everton at home on Saturday and Pep Guardiola’s side are firm favourites to end the season there.
But a record fourth successive English league title is perhaps not the foregone conclusion some are predicting.
Phil Foden’s hat-trick inspired City to a 3-1 victory at Brentford on Monday — City’s fifth league win in a row — to put them two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand.
It all feels ominously familiar with City looking capable again of the long winning streak that ultimately grinds down those seeking to end their domination of the top flight.
“It does feel at the moment as though Manchester City winning the title is a formality,” former Arsenal striker Alan Smith said. “But Pep Guardiola and City certainly won’t be taking anything for granted.
“Anything can happen and injuries could always knock them off balance but maybe that is wishful thinking!”
According to entertainment data experts Gracenote, however, City are still only 57% likely to win the title.
The reason being is that this time there appears to be a genuine three-horse title race after Arsenal’s superb victory over leaders Liverpool last weekend.
Only on nine occasions since the formation of the Premier League in 1992 have two points separated the top three at least 23 matches into a season.
And the way all three clubs are playing — assuming Liverpool’s below-par display in London was just a blip — it could stay tight at the top right into the climax of the season.
Liverpool will hope that relegation-haunted Everton can throw a spanner in City’s works on Saturday, although that seems extremely unlikely seeing as City are unbeaten in 13 league matches against the Merseyside club.
Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool will be anxious to shake off any hangover from the defeat at Arsenal and a home date with second-from-bottom Burnley looks tailor-made for them.
“It’s important that we get back on track straight away. We have to try to do that,” Andy Robertson, who is fully aware of the small margins for error in a title chase with City, told Liverpool’s website on Thursday.
“We’ve got to show everyone it was a one-off and hopefully we kick on for the rest of the season.”
Arsenal celebrated loudly after their defeat of Liverpool, earning some scorn from pundits.
But there is no doubt that after a loss of form at the start of the year, the Gunners looked back in the groove and capable of staying with City and Liverpool.
The pressure will ramp up on a weekly basis though and playing last of the three this weekend — away at London rivals West Ham United — will be a test of their nerve.
Fourth-placed Aston Villa received a jolt to their confidence as they were beaten 3-1 by Chelsea in an FA Cup fourth-round replay on Wednesday and they face a tough test against a rejuvenated Manchester United on Sunday.
Sixth-placed United will still feel they can be in the mix for a top-four spot although defeat at Villa would be a hammer blow.
Fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur take on unpredictable Brighton and Hove Albion at home on Saturday knowing a win will send them above Villa into fourth place.
The big game at the other end of the table sees 17th-placed Luton Town hosting bottom club Sheffield United.
Source – THE STAR