As the 2021/22 Premier League campaign hurtles towards its conclusion, the title race is poised, with both Manchester City and Liverpool battling it out to be crowned league champions.
Separated by a hair’s width at the top of the division, both City and Liverpool were fancied in pre-season, and the pair have lived up to their tags as the league’s two best clubs.
Having played out two enthralling fixtures in the space of a week, City and Liverpool have whet the appetite for what lies ahead in the coming matches.
Unable to be separated in both league meetings this season, the two put on a show during consecutive 2-2 draws at both Anfield and most recently at the Etihad Stadium, where Liverpool came from behind twice to steal a point.
Despite being billed as a title decider, the draw left things as they were at the top of the Premier League, with the destination of the title set to be worked out in the remaining matches of the season.
As leaders for much of the campaign, it is Pep Guardiola’s side who remains favourites to finish out on top, but with a quadruple still on the cards for Liverpool this season, they’re set to push the reigning champions all the way.
With the business end of the campaign well and truly in full swing, we take a look at all the stats that matter in this season’s Premier League title race.
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Liverpool with the momentum, but City have the experience
Momentum is often used as a buzzword during title races to describe the team in the best form. While undoubtedly a crucial asset to any side looking to win the league, how much difference does it actually make?
Well, Liverpool are the side with the momentum right now, and the Reds have used their good form to pick up some astonishing results in recent weeks.
Blitzing Manchester United from the first whistle in midweek, a spell-binding Reds performance helped them on their way to a 4-0 victory over their rivals, taking the aggregate score across this season’s fixtures to 9-0 in Liverpool’s favour.
It now means Liverpool’s strong record in the Premier League sits at 12 wins from their last 13 matches, with the only set of dropped points during that time coming against City themselves.
Seemingly in cruise control, Liverpool’s recent run dwarfs that of City, who unlike their title challengers have dropped points in three of their last seven Premier League outings.
Along with the recent stalemate with Liverpool, Guardiola’s men have struggled to perform at their imperious best, with some suggestions City won’t be able to sustain a perfect title challenge.
However, unlike Liverpool, City does boast the experience of having succeeded in previous title races. Pipping Liverpool to the post back in 2018/19, the Blues understand what it takes to get over the line and secure a Premier League crown.
Wednesday’s victory over Brighton & Hove Albion was the perfect return to winning ways for City, as they look to use past experiences in title races to their advantage this time around.
Defence vs Attack, who has the stronger units?
Liverpool and City are unquestionably producing some of the best football the Premier League has ever seen, with both Klopp and Guardiola having taken the division to new heights in recent years.
Tantalising in attack and resilient at the back, neither side appear to have too many flaws on paper, with both clubs having developed squads capable of challenging on various fronts.
As far as goalscoring is concerned, Liverpool not only leads the way among the two clubs but also top the charts as the league’s most potent side.
No team in the Premier League have scored more goals than Liverpool’s tally of 83 so far, with their current total just two off the entire number they managed during their successful 2019/20 Premier League-winning campaign.
With the gap at the top just one point as things stand, there is every chance goal difference could come into play, and Liverpool’s superior tally gives them the edge right now.
However, much like the points tally, the pair’s goal difference also remains tight, as Liverpool currently lead City on that front by six goals.
With the two having enjoyed bumper midweek wins, it can be expected both teams will continue to score high in the remaining weeks of the season.
While they may have scored eight fewer league goals than Liverpool this season, City does top the defensive charts heading into the final furlong.
Not often a tag associated with Guardiola teams of years gone by, City’s defensive resilience has provided them with the platform to maintain a title challenge in the face of Liverpool’s free-scoring performances.
On top of that, the return of colossal defender Ruben Dias to the City side, after a stint out of the side through injury, will be a much-needed boost for boss Guardiola. The Portuguese international had been absent since the beginning of March but came off the bench to register 45 minutes during the recent win over Brighton.
Do City or Liverpool have the harder run in?
One of the key components of a title race is who each team have left to play. Whether or not a side is mixing it against fellow big boys, or if their remaining matches come against relegation fodder, can influence the eventual destination of the Premier League crown.
Despite navigating a potentially tricky sounding fixture against rivals Manchester United in midweek, Liverpool still have some murky waters ahead, starting with the weekend visit of Everton in the Merseyside derby.
Languishing towards the bottom of the Premier League, the fortunes of Everton compared to neighbours Liverpool could hardly be more contrasting. As the red half of Merseyside gear up for an assault on the quadruple, the blue half are clinging onto their status as a topflight club.
However, as is often the case in local derbies, form goes out of the window, and Frank Lampard will be keen to see his side stunt the progression of Liverpool when they travel to Anfield on Sunday.
One of the last remaining tough fixtures for Liverpool this season, should Klopp’s men steer clear of disaster against Everton, a run of winnable games sits between themselves and the end of the Premier League season.
Champions League-chasing Tottenham Hotspur is the only other tough game on paper for Liverpool, but the Reds have shown on a number of occasions they can get the better of Spurs.
It’s five years since the North London side last beat Liverpool, whereas you have to go back a further six years to 2011 for the last time Spurs won at Anfield.
The Tottenham game is set to come the weekend after a Champions League semi-final away to Villarreal, meaning rotation could be on the cards for Liverpool during the Spurs clash, depending on how that tie pans out.
Other than that, matches against the likes of Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Southampton and a final day of the season meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers, should all represent opportunities for three points.
While City’s fixture list doesn’t appear as daunting, a run of games against sides with plenty to play for at both ends of the table may provide some unwanted headaches for Guardiola’s side.
Back-to-back league matches against relegation candidates Watford and Leeds United represent banana skins in City’s pursuit of consecutive league titles, whereas a visit to West Ham United in the penultimate game of the season could prove a testing trip.
West Ham may have a Europa League final to look forwards to, but if not, their only route back into Europe ahead of next season will have to come via their league position, making that clash a decisive one for the Hammers’ continental hopes.
Yet, unquestionably the standout fixture in the title run-in will come at the Etihad Stadium on the final day of the season, when Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa make the visit north looking to spoil City’s title party.
Failing to win a league title during his 17-year Liverpool career, Gerrard’s efforts as a Reds’ player will be remembered on Merseyside for eternity. However, the infamous slip during the 2013/14 title race meant Liverpool were denied a maiden Premier League title, with City swooping through at the midfielders’ expense.
Having started the campaign in charge of Rangers, Gerrard’s arrival in the Premier League was always going to attract interest, but few could’ve imagined he’d get to have this big of a say in the Premier League title race so early on in his managerial career.
Throw in the fact City boast former Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish amongst their ranks, and May 22nd could prove to be one of the Premier League’s most dramatic final days of all time.
Title remains on a knife-edge with destination still unknown
Just like it was in 2018/19, both City and Liverpool remain inseparable heading into the season’s final weeks. Head and shoulders above the rest in the division, whether the title ends up in Manchester or Merseyside will be decided in the coming weeks.
City have been here and done it before, whereas Liverpool’s only ever Premier League title came with the Reds having blown the competition away earlier in the campaign. Those tried and tested methods of seasons gone by could benefit City as they hunt down yet another league title.
While they both share favourable run-ins, the results of their respective Champions League semi-finals could benefit the way they set up in their league matches.
Liverpool were able to rest players in the second leg of their clash with Benfica last week, allowing the Reds wriggle room for the FA Cup semi-final against City. Whereas the Blues were left with a patched-up starting-11 and ultimately paid the price.
Should a similar situation unfold again, Liverpool’s weaker Champions League semi-final draw could benefit the chasers in their push to reclaim the league title.
However, regardless of who ends up lifting the Premier League title at the end of the season, yet again these two sides have demonstrated their worth to the division.
Delighting with the way they play, the eventual champions would’ve no doubt deserved their reward, given the quality of opposition they have been forced to fend off.
City lead the way as things stand, but in one of the most gripping title races of all time, another twist in the tale cannot be ruled out just yet.