The Premier League title run-in is upon us, with Manchester City kickstarting it this afternoon with the visit of rivals Liverpool to the Etihad (12.30pm). In recent years, it has been this match billed as the meeting of the league’s two top contenders. But this year it is Arsenal, not the Reds, rivalling City for the title.
Pep Guardiola’s side have won four of the last five Premier Leagues and have only been denied in 2019-20, when Liverpool won it. But the reigning champions have a new challenger this year in Arsenal, managed by Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners at present sit eight points ahead of City but have played one match more than them. City will hope to at least temporarily cut that gap to five by beating Liverpool, before Arsenal face Leeds at 3pm at the Emirates today.
Express Sport looks at who Arsenal and City face in the last 10 matches of the campaign as the two teams prepare to put it all on line in the pursuit of immortality – the north Londoners eyeing a first title since 2004 and City looking to become just the second club after Manchester United to win three in a row…
Arsenal – 1st (69 points)
West Ham (A)
Man City (A)
Nottingham Forest (A)
VERDICT: Arsenal’s run-in is far from simple. They face four of the top seven, three away from home, and five teams facing a very real risk of relegation. They’ll fancy themselves to beat Leeds but the trip to Anfield is a daunting one despite Liverpool’s middling season.
Arsenal are winless there since 2012 and three points would be a big statement given City and Manchester United have both lost there this term. Wins will be expected at West Ham and against Southampton, though recent hard-fought wins over Bournemouth and Aston Villa prove the Gunners must be right at it.
The most crucial of course is at the Etihad against City on April 26. A win would be a major psychological boost. But the three-game run that follows – Chelsea at home, Newcastle away, Brighton at home – is a very testing one.
And while Forest have beaten Liverpool and drawn with Chelsea and Man City at the County Ground and so are no pushovers. Only Spurs have won by two clear goals away at Forest this season and that was back in August. Arsenal will hope a stubborn Wolves are safe by the final day.
Man City – 2nd (61 points)
West Ham (H)
Brighton (A) DATE TBC
VERDICT: City have a game in hand on Arsenal, which comes at home to West Ham on May 3, and also another to be rearranged. A tough trip to Brighton should soon be confirmed as either their third-to-last or penultimate match of the season.
Even if Erling Haaland is out injured, City will be confident of dismissing Liverpool. And tests against Southampton and Leicester should be passed without too much trouble despite both fighting for their lives.
After that is the mammoth fixture against Arsenal which the Citizens surely need to win if they want to retain their crown. After that, City will be heavy favourites to put away Fulham, West Ham and Leeds. A trip to Goodison Park won’t be easy given Everton’s likely approach, but again City will be confident of victory.
The visit of Chelsea won’t be a gimme but City have already beaten the Blues three times this season by an aggregate scoreline of 7-0. However, if the postponed Brighton match is put in the midweek before the final game, back-to-back trips to the Seagulls and to Brentford pose a major threat to Guardiola’s charges, unless those teams are on the metaphorical beach by then.