A pulsating battle for the EPL title awaits | Football News - Hindustan Times

A pulsating battle for the EPL title awaits

Mar 14, 2024 07:24 PM IST

Arsenal, Liverpool and City are all in with a chance of winning the Premier League. We may have to wait till the final week of the season to know the winner.

With 10 rounds left in the Premier League this season, the title race seems poised for a fascinating finish as just one point separates Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City at the top. What adds more intrigue to the battle is that the three teams are continuing to go strong even in their respective campaigns in Europe.

Arsenal's William Saliba celebrates(AP)
Arsenal's William Saliba celebrates(AP)

Arsenal clinched a tense penalty shootout against Porto on Tuesday to book a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 14 years. City, the defending champions, made it to the last eight last week while Liverpool are all but through to the Europa League quarters.

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Domestically, the three teams have done enough to build a sizeable gap between them and the rest. Arsenal are tied with Liverpool but sit atop the table thanks to superior goal difference, while City are just a point behind. Aston Villa, in fourth position, are eight points below City.

There’s no doubt the European fixtures will remain critical and offer a stern test in terms of squad strength. When it comes to quality, there’s little to separate Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, but as is usually the case, the final stage of a season is just as much about a team’s character.

Can Arsenal hold on?

Looking at how the last two decades have panned out, this is uncharted territory for the Gunners. They’re at the top heading into the final stretch of the Premier League and have even managed to break through the Champions League round of 16 barrier.

Last year, too, they were in a promising position before a string of poor results ended their hopes. The sharpness and creativity that Mikel Arteta’s players had shown through the season was lacking towards the end and there was a desperate need for reinforcements.

With the arrival of Declan Rice, the Arsenal lineup has looked a lot more balanced this season and they’ve had a terrific run since the start of this year. They’re on a nine-game winning streak, which includes three points against Liverpool as well, and have scored 35 goals during this run, which has seen their goal difference soar.

However, Arsenal play City at the Etihad next and even have clashes with Villa, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United pending. Once again, it’s a question of whether Arteta’s men will have enough in the tank against the big teams to fight till the end.

The Klopp factor

This is the first time in eight seasons that Liverpool are missing in the Champions League, having finished fifth in the Premier League last year. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side has bounced back well this season and can be expected to make a strong push over the next couple of months.

What makes Liverpool all the more dangerous is Klopp’s impending departure at the end of this season. The German has acquired legendary status at the club through the course of his incredibly successful nine years in charge, and there’s no doubt the players will have that added motivation to give him a memorable farewell.

Liverpool went down to Arsenal before drawing with City recently. While those dropped points were surely a jolt, their fans will be hopeful as there’s a slightly less demanding lineup of fixtures to look forward to. Mohamed Salah’s return from injury is also a major positive. Among the key games, they will face West Ham and Villa away and host United and Spurs at Anfield.

“We did show from a performance point of view (against City) that we are definitely ready to stay in the race until the end of the season,” Klopp told reporters. “That is all you can ever ask for in mid-March. We are still a couple of months away from some of the big prizes being handed out so there is no need to focus on what the season may or may not bring, we just need to keep on going.”

City’s desire

It's probably to be expected that a team that won the treble last season lacks a bit of pace and motivation. But Manchester City and Pep Guardiola won't settle for anything less than silverware once again. Aside from reaching the FA Cup quarters and beating FC Copenhagen in the Champions League round of 16, City are also well placed in the Premier League.

They’ve won the PL title five of the last six times and it would take a brave person to bet against them this season as well. What sets City apart is that when the pressure is at its highest, they know how to produce their best football. With Kevin De Bruyne nearing full fitness as well, one can count on Guardiola’s side to make very few mistakes going forward.

Three of City’s next five fixtures are tricky as they face Arsenal, Villa and Spurs. But with Guardiola at the helm, there can be little doubt about the team's motivation to build on its glory.

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