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Man City handed major title advantage as Liverpool must rise to extra test

Man City’s slight bump in the road against Southampton before the international break has given Liverpool just a glimmer of hope in the Premier League title race. The door has been left open just a fraction.

The gap is now at nine points, but with Liverpool having a game in hand, the deficit could be cut further still.

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Most believed the title race was over, but we may just have something to look forward to as the season winds its way towards the final strait.

However, the reigning Premier League champions have been given a major psychological advantage over Liverpool this month, as all of their games, bar one, are played before Liverpool’s.

City have four league games in February; Liverpool have three (it would be four, but the game against Arsenal has been postponed due to the League Cup final). And in almost every one of those games, Pep Guardiola’s side play first.

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With the FA Cup resuming this weekend, the league doesn’t kick back into gear until a set of midweek fixtures a few days after. City host Brentford at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday February 9. Liverpool doesn’t play until a full 24 hours later, when they host Leicester at Anfield.

The pattern is repeated a few days after, when Liverpool play away to Burnley on the Sunday, with Man City playing at Norwich 24 hours previously.

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Of course, these fixtures are all conditioned by the fact that City play before Liverpool in the Champions League, with City travelling to Lisbon to face Sporting and Liverpool flying to Italy to face Inter. UEFA’s fixtures have been set in stone since the draw was made in early December, and Premier League fixtures are always shuffled in order to accommodate European games.

The trend is reversed somewhat in the game after the Champions League first leg ties, when Liverpool host Norwich in the 3pm kickoff slot, while City welcome Tottenham to Manchester a few hours later.

But at the end of the month, Man City travel to Liverpool to face the blue half of the city, while Liverpool have the EFL Cup final with Chelsea to contend. Once again, this will allow Pep Guardiola’s side to throw down the gauntlet.

With Man City overwhelmingly likely to win the game against Everton, the gap could become sizeable once again.

All of these games play into City’s hands, as Liverpool players will have the psychological issue of knowing the City result before they take to the field.

Of course one can say the best thing to do is block all the outside noise out and focus on your own game, but football doesn’t work like that. Yes, Jürgen Klopp’s men will be asked to concentrate solely on the task at hand and win each game as it comes, but the fact that City’s games are always first will be an issue.

However, that could also work as a boost. Should City drop points, then that could have the effect of galvanising Liverpool going into their fixtures, knowing that the gap in the Premier League title race is narrowing.

Yet given the set of games both sides have coming up this month, it’s difficult to see either dropping any points. On paper, the only potentially tricky game for either side is Man City’s game against Tottenham.

So by the end of February, things could just be how they were at the start of it.

But as the Man City draw against Southampton demonstrated, you just never know in the Premier League.

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Source
liverpool.com
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