As match day 32 gets underway, Premier League sides are preparing themselves for the final stretch.
We’re in for an exciting end to the season as the relegation fight, top four battle and title race are all expected to go right down to the wire.
At the top end of the table, Liverpool and Manchester City sit 13 points clear of second-placed Tottenham but little separates the North West rivals.
Heading into this weekend’s fixtures, Liverpool is two points ahead of City, but the Manchester club does have a game in hand.
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Big Six Fixtures
Pep Guardiola’s side has an opportunity to not only go ahead of Liverpool this weekend but go ahead whilst still having an extra game to play, which is why it’s arguably ‘advantage City’ at this point.
Liverpool host Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, whereas Manchester City, travel to London to face Fulham in the early kick-off on Saturday.
Sunday’s game is a must-win for the Reds as they look to keep touch with City and they’ll definitely fancy themselves having beaten Spurs already this season in the reverse fixture at Wembley.
This game is one of two “big six” matches Liverpool have left to play; they then host Chelsea at Anfield in April.
City, on the other hand, not only have to host Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham but they still have to face a revitalized Manchester United at Old Trafford.
There is no doubt that these games will have some say in the title race and they’ll be highlighted as the fixtures where City and Liverpool are most likely to drop points.
Good form in the Premier League is vital at such a pivotal point of the season, but for both City and Liverpool, winning the Champions League is still on the cards.
Even more so this season as we’ve seen European heavyweights like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, as well as a star-studded side like PSG already drop out of the competition.
With all four English sides progressing to the quarter-finals, it’s quite possible the European Cup will be returning to England following the final in May.
Liverpool has been dealt the kindest tie, having been drawn against FC Porto for the second season in a row.
Manchester City face Tottenham in the only all-English quarter-final, but this could arguably be a blessing in disguise.
It’s no secret that cup runs, particularly in the Champions League, can affect form in the Premier League.
Liverpool fans will remember the stress of last season, enjoying a run to the UCL Final in Kyiv, but also coming close to dropping out of the top four in the process.
Fortunately for both Liverpool and City, they have almost fully fit squads with Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold returning to training and Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany all returning at this crucial stage.
Fresh injuries going forward could be detrimental to either team’s title challenge, especially if they involve big-name players like Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling or Fernandinho.
The Reds are firm favorites to progress through to the semi-finals where they’ll potentially face Barcelona or Manchester United and should City fail to come through their two-legged tie against Tottenham, all their focus will be on the Premier League.
A scary prospect when you think about the talent and capabilities of this Manchester City side.
Fixtures come thick and fast for Manchester City, more so due to their involvement in the FA Cup and it’s the run of games in mid-April that are likely to be season-defining.
Spurs Away, Palace Away, Spurs at home, Spurs at home again, Manchester United away followed by Burnley away isn’t easy viewing for Manchester City fans, a grueling run of games that will be sure to push Guardiola’s side to the absolute limit.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have Porto at home, Chelsea at home, Porto away, Cardiff away and Huddersfield at home in that time frame.
Not only is that one less fixture, but a far kinder set of games as well.
A loss this weekend for Liverpool would be disappointing, of course, but they wouldn’t exactly be handing the title to City.
It was always going to be tight, it was always going to go down to the final few games and it will no doubt be an exciting end to what has been a brilliant Premier League season.
Champions League ties, as well as those “big six” fixtures, are likely to have the biggest say in where the title ends up, the question is, who comes out on top?