Premier League: Liverpool, Man City enter home straight in thrilling title tilt

Only two points separate Liverpool and Manchester City with six games left. Will Liverpool end its 29-year wait for glory, or will Manchester City retain the title?

The Premier League leader on April 1 has proceeded to claim the title in each of the previous four seasons.   -  Getty Images

It all boils down to the next 40 days and the title race is ON! Manchester City stormed back to the top of the Premier League table courtesy of a 2-0 win against Cardiff City on Wednesday, but its spot on the top is under urgent threat as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool is a mere point away.

A resurgent Liverpool has had a wondrous season, having lost only one league match over 32 games. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have kept the goals coming and have been ably supported by a stonewall defence anchored by Virgil "The Wall" Van Dijk.

The Cityzens, on the other hand, have slipped to four losses but have lost only once in 11 matches since the beginning of the year. In fact, City's first win of the year came in a 2-1 triumph over Liverpool at The Etihad, which lit up the title race and reduced the gap to all of four points.

We're now down to the business end of the league with only six games remaining. It's that time of the year when champions are made, heroes emerge and clubs battle to escape the wrath of relegation.

Can the Reds end their 29-year wait for Premier League glory, or will Manchester City defend its crown and cruise to its sixth title? We take a look at both of their upcoming fixtures.

Manchester City

A gruelling month of April awaits Man City, the highlights being an exciting derby against Manchester United at Old Trafford and a home game against top-4 hopeful Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to these games is a Champions League quarterfinal clash against Tottenham and an FA Cup semifinal against Brighton and Hove Albion. Given how many injuries the side was plagued with last season, fitness and fatigue management will be the need of the hour for City.

(1) Crystal Palace – April 14 [Away]

This one is a tricky fixture. Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace claimed a sensational 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium in December to severely dent City's race to the top. City will have to be at its absolute best to ensure it does not drop points again.

Difficulty level – 3/5 ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪

(2) Tottenham Hotspur – April 20 – [Home]

After conceding in the 90th minute against Liverpool, Spurs will be hungry to come out on top against City when the two sides clash at the newly-built Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Tottenham is third currently but will have to register a series of wins, starting against City, if it is to remain in the top-4 and seal automatic qualification to the Champions League.

Difficulty level – 4/5 ⚫⚫⚫

(3) Manchester United – April 25 [Away]

The Manchester Derby will be City's biggest challenge in April. Manchester United has done remarkably well under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and will fancy its chances at home. City coasted to a 3-1 win at home in November, but in Solskjaer's first game as manager against City, one can expect a surprise. It goes without saying that this match is bound to have a massive impact on the title race.

Difficulty level – 5/5 ⚫⚫⚫

(4) Burnley FC – April 28 [Away]

After three successive challenging opponents, Guardiola's side will travel to Turf Moor. City handed Burnley two 5-0 thrashings this season, one in the league and the other in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and anything but a win will come as a major surprise.

Difficulty level – 2/5 ⚫⚫

(5) Leicester City – May 4 [Home]

City's penultimate game will come against 2016 champion Leicester City. This could prove to be yet another decisive affair, given that Leicester had inflicted a 2-1 win over City in late December. A drop of points would all but prove detrimental to City's title charge and the Foxes will be out to do just that.

Difficulty level – 4/5 ⚫⚫⚫

(6) Brighton and Hove Albion – May 12 [Away]

Guardiola will look to end the season on a winning note when his boys take on a lowly Brighton. The title should have been decided by this point, but if it remains the way it is now, a tense encounter awaits! Maybe Sergio Aguero could score another stoppage-time winner and lead City to the title?

Difficulty level – 3/5 ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪

Liverpool

Klopp's Liverpool has a relatively easy six fixtures ahead and the only stern test it will face will be against Chelsea on April 14, at home. All of Liverpool's other league matches are against sides well out of contention for a top-4 finish, the first of which will come against 16th-placed Southampton at home. Like City, Liverpool has also made the quarters of the Champions League and will play FC Porto over two legs.

(1) Southampton – April 6 [Away]

This is a supremely important game for Liverpool. With City easing past Cardiff on Wednesday, Liverpool will need a win to continue the see-saw battle for the top spot and restore its two-point lead. Virgil Van Dijk's return to fitness should ensure an easy win for Klopp's men.

Difficulty level – 2/5 ⚫⚫⚪⚪

(2) Chelsea – April 14 [Home]

This is undoubtedly Liverpool’s biggest challenge ahead. It will be a battle fought on the pitch and on the whiteboard as two of the game's best tacticians, Jurgen Klopp and Maurizio Sarri, face-off. The sides drew 1-1 in the reverse fixture, but playing at home, Liverpool will be expected to have the upper hand. City plays Crystal Palace on the same day and this match day will have a strong bearing in the title race. Whichever team ends up on the losing side could be all but out of the title race!

Difficulty level – 5/5 ⚫⚫⚫⚫⚫

(3) Cardiff City – April 21 [Away]

Relegation-threatened Cardiff hosts Liverpool on April 21 and this should be a walk in the park for Klopp's men. The Reds coasted to a 4-1 win in the previous meeting and a similar scoreline would be of no surprise.

Difficulty level – 2/5 ⚫⚫⚪⚪

(4) Huddersfield Town – April 27 [Home]

Liverpool has an unbeaten 3:0 record against Huddersfield, but struggled the last time the two sides met in October. Salah’s goal was all that separated the two sides and despite boasting a full-strength squad, Liverpool managed only two shots on goal. You can expect Jan Siewert’s side to pile bodies in defence, and it might perhaps even manage to steal a point from Klopp’s men. The result would be of little consequence for Championship-bound Huddersfield though, as it sits at the bottom of the table with 14 points from 32 games.

Difficulty level – 4/5 ⚫⚫⚫⚫

(5) Newcastle United – May 4 [Away]

Liverpool’s penultimate league game will see it travel to St. James’ Park to face Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United. It will be a clash between two familiar foes as Klopp and Benitez would be eager to one-up the other. Klopp can brag about a 4-0 win in the reverse fixture, but former Liverpool manager Benitez always has a trick or two up his sleeve. After all, he did guide the Magpies to a 2-1 win over Man City in January, didn’t he? A drop of points here could see the title race take a very, very interesting twist.

Difficulty level – 3/5 ⚫⚫

(6) Wolverhampton Wolves – May 12 [Home]

It all comes down to this. Will we witness some last-gasp action? Will Mohamed Salah do an Aguero and score a stoppage-time winner and lead Liverpool to the title, will Liverpool have already sealed the title by then, or will City have the last laugh? The clash against Wolves, who have had a stunning campaign to finish in the top-10, will be a cracker of a contest.

Difficulty level – 3/5 ⚫⚫

Stats favour Liverpool, barring a slip

The stats seem to favour Liverpool as things stand. In what is set to be the closest finish since the 2013/14 season, no team has lost the title since leading the EPL table on April 1st. Unless they let it slip, of course!

Remember how Steven Gerrard roared “We don't let this slip” and ironically went on to slip, allowing Demba Ba to score on that April afternoon in 2014? That cost Liverpool the title and was also the last time a team lost while leading the table in the penultimate month of the league. Oh and guess who went on to lift the title that year? Manchester City. Interesting times ahead!