Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City go into the busy festive fixture list trailing Liverpool by a point, and the two heavyweights of English football have four games before clashing at the Etihad on Thursday, 3 January.
It’s an incredible way to kick-off 2019, with a potential title decider, although both camps will doubtless play expectations down. While the trophy can’t be won on match-day 21, just over halfway into the Premier League season, it can certainly be lost.
City remain red-hot odds-on 4/11 favourites with bet365 to retain the title they won at an absolute canter last term. Chelsea ending their unbeaten Premier League streak this campaign has breathed new life into the race for glory though.
Only Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield outfit have kept pace with their fellow Northwest club, however. London trio Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal are the only sides in the Premier League averaging two points per game or better after 16 matches. They all have considerable ground still to make up on the top two, so the title race looks to be between them.
Do either Liverpool or City have an advantage during the busy Christmas period in terms of their run of games though? On paper at least, it looks as though Klopp’s Reds face the tougher tests with fellow established top-six sides Manchester United and Arsenal travelling to Merseyside, with a trip to Wolves and then a home game against Newcastle United sandwiched between.
This run of games may explain why Liverpool, although entering a congested period of five games in 19 days with their noses in front, are still second-favourites in the outright Premier League football betting at 5/2.
Pep Guardiola doesn’t have to prepare for any other top-six sides before facing the Reds, yet City do have an extra fixture to contend with as they travel to Leicester City for an EFL Cup quarter-final clash between league games with Everton at Goodison Park and Crystal Palace at home.
Six matches across all competitions in 20 days is a very demanding schedule, yet a Premier League trip to Leicester and another away day at Southampton to round off 2018 shouldn’t stretch a squad with such strength and depth.
The inferior opposition encountered by City is offset by that League Cup tie, and it’s also worth remembering Liverpool haven’t lost a league game yet. Special odds of 8/1 are available on Klopp’s crew completing their Premier League campaign unbeaten.
Only Arsenal and their Invincibles vintage of 2003-04 have managed that in the modern era, so chances are that the Reds will lose a game sooner or later. A poor Christmas period for both Liverpool and City would bring Tottenham into contention.
While Mauricio Pochettino’s men have a North London derby at Arsenal in the EFL Cup quarter-finals coming up, there are three very winnable home games with Burnley, Bournemouth and Wolves in the Premier League too.
Spurs also visit Everton in the last league game before Christmas and Cardiff City in their first fixture of the new year, so like City they aren’t encountering any top-six rivals until they meet Manchester United in mid-January.