Premier League Preview: Liverpool eyes record-breaking win as top-four battle heats up

With Liverpool racing towards the title, the battle to qualify for the Champions League and the struggle to avoid relegation look set to go down to the wire.

Liverpool’s historic charge towards a first English title has been halted by the global outbreak of the coronavirus.

Liverpool’s historic charge towards a first English title since 1990 will reach another landmark moment if it beats Watford.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool can make Premier League history at Watford on Saturday as the runaway leader aims to move within three wins of clinching the title.

While Jurgen Klopp’s side is racing towards the title, the battle to qualify for the Champions League and the struggle to avoid relegation look set to go down to the wire. Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Wolves can all bolster their European hopes this weekend, with West Ham, Norwich, Bournemouth and Watford among those scrapping for survival.

- LIVERPOOL'S HISTORY BOYS -

Liverpool’s historic charge towards a first English title since 1990 will reach another landmark moment if it beats Watford. The Reds equalled Manchester City’s English top-flight record of 18 consecutive league wins, set between August and December 2017, when it fought back from 2-1 down to beat West Ham 3-2 on Monday.

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Klopp’s men, who need four victories from their final 11 games to guarantee the title, can break City’s record with win number 19 at Vicarage Road. With second-placed Manchester City on League Cup final duty against Aston Villa on Sunday, a victory against the struggling Hornets would put Liverpool 25 points clear at the top.

Pep Guardiola (R) and his Manchester City side will not play in the Premier League this weekend as it has a League Cup final against Aston Villa on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

 

If it does win its next four games, it will lock up the title with seven matches to spare, beating the Premier League record of five, which is currently shared by Manchester City in 2017-18 and Manchester United in 2000-01. Undefeated in its past 44 league matches, Liverpool is also five games away from equalling Arsenal’s record of 49 unbeaten across 2003 and 2004.

It would be a huge upset if second-bottom Watford stops Liverpool. It has lost the past four meetings, conceding 15 times and failing to score a single goal. Asked for the secret of Liverpool’s success, Reds defender Virgil van Dijk said: “Not being nervous, that is the main thing. Keep playing and keep pressing. There will be moments when the opponent is going to have problems if we keep doing the same thing.”

- TOP-FOUR TURBULENCE -

With only seven points separating troubled Chelsea in fourth place and resurgent Arsenal in ninth, reaching next season’s Champions League will be a tight squeeze for the six clubs in contention. Leicester, in third place, appears well set despite a recent wobble.

Fifth spot could be enough to ensure qualification depending on the outcome of second-placed Manchester City’s appeal against its two-year ban from European competitions. Chelsea could be in danger after Tuesday’s chastening 3-0 home defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 first leg.

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Blues midfielder Jorginho said Frank Lampard’s side cannot afford to feel sorry for itself at Bournemouth on Saturday. “It is really tough for the changing room, but we just have to believe in ourselves, and not put our heads down,” Jorginho said.

“We need to keep working, keep pushing, because we are a good team.” If Chelsea lose on the south coast, Manchester United would move above them on goal difference, provided they win at Everton.

Both Jose Mourinho's (L) Tottenham and Frank Lampard's Chelsea lost at home to German opponents in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg.   -  Getty Images

 

Successive wins over Chelsea and Watford have revitalised United, with the January addition of Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes sparking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s previously moribund team. Tottenham, in sixth, hosts Wolves, with its eighth-placed visitor just one point behind it.

Hamstrung by injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Jose Mourinho’s side was beaten by Chelsea in its last league game, prompting its manager to hint he does not expect a successful end to the season. “I would love to be at July 1,” said Mourinho.

“I would love to be in pre-season, working with Harry and Sonny. That’s not possible. It’s going to be very difficult, especially when we go into an accumulation of matches.”

Arsenal, which is unbeaten in seven league games, is not in action this weekend.

The fixtures (all timings in IST)

Friday: Norwich vs Leicester (1:30 AM)

Saturday: Brighton vs Crystal Palace (6 PM), Bournemouth vs Chelsea (8:30 PM), Newcastle vs Burnley (8:30 PM), West Ham vs Southampton (8:30 PM), Watford vs Liverpool (11 PM).

Sunday: Everton vs Manchester United (7:30 PM), Tottenham vs Wolves (7:30 PM).

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