Man City, Liverpool locked in title battle
Premier League leaders Manchester City and their relentless challengers Liverpool will expect to stay neck and neck in the title race after this weekend’s matches.
In the battle for top four places, Arsenal can deliver a hammer blow to Manchester United’s hopes, while Chelsea can’t avoid another slip against West Ham.
Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City will have to hold off one of the best teams ever if they are to pip Liverpool to the title.
Guardiola’s side is one point clear of second-placed Liverpool after both teams won comfortably in midweek.
With six games left, it will likely take just one slip from either team to decide the enthralling race.
It would be a major surprise if that happens this weekend as the City hosts second-bottom Watford on Saturday, while Liverpool plays fourth-bottom, Everton, in Sunday’s Merseyside derby at Anfield.
Guardiola has acknowledged City will have to win all their remaining matches to be sure of lifting the trophy, and that is a fitting tribute to the quality of quadruple chasers Liverpool.
“Liverpool are one of the best sides in the whole of football history, we are facing one of the best teams ever,” Guardiola said this week.
“They have everything, that’s why being there with them means a lot. The players know it. They’ve faced them and they know.
“We don’t have any chance to drop anything, but we have been in this position and played with this pressure.”
Manchester United’s decision to announce the long-awaited appointment of Ajax boss Erik ten Hag as their new manager from next season came just two days after the Dutch coach was given a stark reminder of the massive task he faces at Old Trafford.
United’s wretched display in Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat at Liverpool underlined just how far they have fallen since Alex Ferguson led them to their last Premier League title in 2013.
Languishing in sixth place – 23 points behind Manchester City – United have been reduced to scrapping for a top four finish and even that goal could well be beyond them.
United head to Arsenal on Saturday trailing both the fifth placed Gunners and fourth placed Tottenham by three points.
Defeat against a direct rival for the Champions League places would be a fatal blow for interim boss Ralf Rangnick and his side, who were rocked by the bomb threat received by out-of-form captain Harry Maguire on Thursday.
Arsenal, behind Tottenham on goal difference, go into the clash boosted by Wednesday’s 4-2 win at Chelsea, a vital success that ended their run of three consecutive defeats.
“I said to the players, if you want to be playing Champions League football, you have to beat the top teams,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said.
Prior to their shock 4-1 home defeat against Brentford, Chelsea had won six consecutive games and were showing few signs of being affected by the sanctions on Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
But since that unexpected setback, Thomas Tuchel’s side have been mired in a inconsistent spell that threatens to ruin their hopes of an uplifting end to a difficult campaign.
Their painful Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid featured a 3-1 first leg defeat in which Karim Benzema demolished the cracks in the Chelsea defence that Brentford had already exposed.
The feelgood factor from a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-finals swiftly vanished as Arsenal ransacked Stamford Bridge to reawaken fears the Blues might miss out on a top four place.
Currently five points clear of fifth place, Chelsea have conceded 11 goals in three home games and would be plunged into further turmoil if they lose to West Ham on Sunday