Paul Merson looks ahead to a return to the Premier League as he gives his verdict on Man City’s crucial clash with Liverpool on Saturday…
The Premier League resumes after the international break at the Etihad Stadium, with Man City and Liverpool facing a huge clash in the title race and the battle to reach the top four.
League leaders Arsenal currently lead Man City by eight points, but Pep Guardiola’s side have the chance to cut that gap to five with victory over Liverpool, while Jurgen Klopp’s side face a crucial week when they face City, Chelsea and Arsenal as they bid for Champions League qualification.
The Magic Man, in his exclusive skysports.com column takes a closer look at Manchester City v Liverpool, saying it’s a must-win clash for City, while he believes Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification are firmly on the line in their next three games .
He also discusses Arsenal’s bid to end their wait for the Premier League crown, before talking about his experience of being in the title race.
“Manchester City has no room for error”
It’s a cup final for Manchester City.
They have to win this game. A win and the gap is five points again and the pressure is back on Arsenal, who still have some tough games to play.
A draw for City and an Arsenal win against Leeds on Saturday would extend the gap to 10 points, which is too far.
It’s a gap where you really start to think it might be over.
A tough game to get back to…
It’s a nightmare game for both Manchester City and Liverpool so soon after the international break.
It’s a huge play and it works the same way for both teams.
Both managers don’t have the time they would like to work on things before the game and you also have to wait for the players to come back to see who may or may not be fit.
It’s not perfect, and it could be that whoever handles the break better can come out on top.
But the pressure is on Man City. They cannot afford to lose. They can’t even afford to paint.
What impact does the fixture schedule have on the title race?
I’ve said for a while that once we get to the final months of the season, the title could be decided by who plays first between Man City and Arsenal.
That being said, the schedule seems to have fallen in Man City’s favor.
Had Arsenal come first against Leeds this coming weekend and won the game, the pressure on Man City against Liverpool would be mind-boggling.
However, this did not happen. They can treat it as a game in hand and a win would see them five points adrift again, piling the pressure on Arsenal against Leeds.
It’s happening over the next few weeks as well, so I think that helps City.
If Arsenal play first and have an 11 point lead, wow. The pressure and points deficit would be huge for City.
A big week for Liverpool’s top four hopes…
Liverpool will have a big say in the destination of the title.
They travel to City this week before hosting Arsenal next weekend.
They may not be in the title race themselves, but they still have a lot to play for as they aim to sneak into the Champions League places.
It’s a great week for them with Chelsea in between games against Man City and Arsenal. This is a defining week for them, with the results having a huge impact on their top four chances.
If they don’t get something from these games then they won’t be back in the Champions League next season.
But four points from the next few games and you wouldn’t want to back yourself against them going on a huge run and securing Champions League qualification.
Liverpool’s remaining fixtures…
- April 1: Manchester City (A) – Premier League, kick-off 12:30 p.m
- April 4: Chelsea (A) v Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
- April 9: Arsenal (H) v Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
- April 17: Leeds (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
- April 22: Nottingham Forest (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
- April 26: West Ham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 7.45pm
- 30 April: Tottenham Hotspur (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
- May 3: Fulham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 20:00
- May 6: Brentford (H) – Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
- May 13: Leicester (A) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
- May 20: Aston Villa (H) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
- May 28: Southampton (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
“Every game is big”
We are now at the stage of the season where every game is big.
The bottom teams are fighting for their lives, the mid-table teams still have an outside chance of Europe and then you’re in the title race. Even teams with nothing to play for can make a statement at this stage of the season as they have nothing to fear.
There are no easy games.
I have been lucky enough to be a part of several title races and two title winning teams.
That’s it now, we’re down to the last 10 or so games of the season. It feels completely different from the first 28 games of the season.
I feel the same way about Arsenal right now as I did when Leicester won the title.
I know Leicester were big underdogs but it always felt like they were going to catch them in the end. But every week another game went by and they were still leading. They kept winning and then before you knew it, the games were over and it was too late. Tottenham drew against Chelsea and that was that. It will only take a result like that for Man City and that will be it.
I have the same sentiments as I had with Leicester with Arsenal. Everyone expects a collapse, but so far it is not coming.
Arsenal’s remaining matches
April 1st: Leeds (H) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
April 9: Liverpool (A) – Premier League, kick-off 16:30, live Sky Sports
April 16: West Ham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 14:00, live Sky Sports
April 21: Southampton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 20:00, live Sky Sports
April 26: Man City (A) – Premier League, kick-off 20:00
April 29: Chelsea (H) – Premier League, kick-off 17:30, live Sky Sports
May 7: Newcastle (A) – Premier League, kick-off 16:30, live Sky Sports
May 13: Brighton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
May 20: Nottingham Forest (A) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
May 28: Wolves (H) – Premier League, start 16.30
Man City’s remaining matches
April 1st: Liverpool (H) – Premier League, start 12.30 p.m
April 8: Southampton (A) – Premier League, kick-off 17:30, live Sky Sports
April 11: Bayern Munich (H) – Champions League, kick-off 20:00
April 15: Leicester (H) – Premier League, kick-off 17:30, live Sky Sports
April 19: Bayern Munich (A) – Champions League, kick-off 20:00
April 22: Sheffield United (N) – FA Cup, kick-off 3pm
April 26: Arsenal (H) – Premier League, kick-off 20:00
April 30: Fulham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 14:00, live Sky Sports
May 3: West Ham (H) – Premier League, kick-off 20:00, live Sky Sports
May 7: Leeds United (H) – Premier League, kick-off 14:00, live Sky Sports
May 13: Everton (A) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
May 20: Chelsea (H) – Premier League, kick-off 15:00
May 28: Brentford (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30 p.m
TBA: Brighton (A) – Premier League