The 2020-2021 Premier League season has reached a crossroads with twelve matchweeks to be played. Manchester City are dangerously close to ending the title race, and have an excellent opportunity to effectively slam the door shut on would be challengers this week. Unbeaten in eighteen consecutive league matches, and winners of twenty straight across all competitions, City currently hold a 12 point lead on cross town rivals Manchester United, with a Manchester Derby looming this weekend. The outcome of this single match could very well determine if a title race is a legitimate possibility, or if the league title will be essentially decided in March for two consecutive seasons.
At this point in time last season, Liverpool held a larger twenty-two point lead over City, which expanded to 25 the following week. Then the season was abruptly and rudely interrupted by something you may not have heard of yet, Covid-19.
This season City are the ones holding the reigns, and with a win at the Etihad could ~nearly~ put the race to bed. City have been absolutely clinical after a rough start to the season saw them hovering mid table for several weeks. In the scenario that both City and United win midweek, and City will the derby they would hold a 15 point lead with ten matches, and thirty total points available to both sides – meaning if United were able to win all ten matches, City would need just five wins and a draw to ensure the title is theirs. With the form City have been in, it is hard to fathom them only winning half of their remaining ten matches. What’s even harder to imagine is United winning all of their remaining league fixtures.
I strongly believe City will beat United this weekend, but let’s imagine for a second that United can win, or even draw. A nine point gap is much more manageable, even twelve points gives you hope that you can still overcome the odds.
Also worth mentioning, Leicester City is right there in the mix, but injuries are starting to take a toll on the Foxes. They certainly have their eyes set on staying in the Top Four to ensure Champions League play next season.
Although the title race is nearly decided, the top four race this season has the potential to be extremely entertaining. Eight teams have a realistic chance of finishing the season in a Champions League spot. According to the nerds over at 538, it is effectively a five team race between United, West Ham, Leicester, Liverpool, and Chelsea. However, in my eyes all of these teams pictured above have a viable chance of reaching the pinnacle of club football in Europe.
I will say, before I checked the odds provided by 538, I listed my likely ‘Top 4’ and had a very similar result: ( City, United, Leicester, Liverpool).
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the dreaded Relegation Race. Sheffield United are certainly doomed to go back to the Championship. West Brom are almost certainly right there with them, but Burnley, Brighton, Newcastle, and Fulham are all fighting and clinging for life to stay another season in the Premiership. I see the bottom two staying the same, however I see Fulham leapfrogging Newcastle to avoid relegation.
Fixtures are coming fast and furious, with a total of seventeen matches being played between now and next Monday. Matches of note include Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on Thursday, West Ham and Leeds in London on Monday of next week, and the biggest match of the week, the Manchester Derby on Sunday. I personally cannot wait to see how this weeks slate of matches unfurls. On Friday I will recap the midweek fixtures and provide updates on all of these races.