The 2018-19 EPL season has certainly been an entertaining one with an intense competition that has been brewing for some time now. Liverpool and Manchester City have been neck and neck throughout the season for the league title, and just when you think one team has the potential to pull away, the other squad answers back and establishes their dominance. The closest teams behind Manchester City and Liverpool are Tottenham and Manchester United who are deadlocked at 61 points, and will more than likely be fighting for the third place.
Every one of the top four teams is still running strong in Champions League play which will also factor into their performance down the stretch of the season, but for the sake of this article, we will be putting the focus on only league games. Each of these teams have either a tangible or intangible asset that they will have to put to use in order to attain their best possible finish with seven games remaining in the season, and without further ado here are the best calling cards each of the top four league teams can take advantage of.
Manchester City: Consistency
When Manchester City looks good, they look really good and I’d argue that they are in exactly the right position to achieve the quadruple (winning the league cup, FA cup, EPL and Champions League), which would make them the first team to ever achieve that. They’ve been on a solid run of form winning nine of their last 10 matches, which included a 6-0 dominating win against Chelsea, and a convincing 3-1 win against Arsenal thanks to a hat trick from Sergio Aguero. Every single one of these last seven matches is a must-win game for City, as they sit two points behind Liverpool with 77 points, they cannot afford any draws or losses.
In order to remain consistent in their final seven matches, they must get three points against Tottenham, and on a trip up to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. City will need continued success from Aguero (19 goals, 7 assists in 27 league games), Bernardo Silva (goal and assist in each of his past three matches) and Raheem Sterling (15 goals, nine assists in 28 league games).
The back four has been experiencing lots of changes recently due to injuries, but the unit has held firm as they rank second in the league in clean sheets with 15. Looking like they’re at the height of their best play all season, it is crucial for Manchester City to win every game that they’re supposed to win, and anticipate a slip up from Liverpool in order to take control of the EPL title race.
Liverpool: Widening the gap in close games
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made considerable progress with this Liverpool squad, after finishing fourth in the league table last season, the team is looking for their first Premier League title since 1990. In order to achieve that goal, Liverpool must edge out Manchester City, only holding a slim two point edge over Liverpool in the league table with 79 points. The 2-1 close victory over Tottenham definitely helped them maintain control of their first place lead, but in order to finish out the season strong, they must be able to take close games, and turn them into strong wins.
Sadio Mane has been in spectacular form lately knocking in seven goals in six games, and so has Roberto Firmino, who has produced three goals and one assist in the squad’s past four matches. When the midfield and defense get either one of those players the ball, very good things tend to happen, along with their success, last season’s leading goalscorer Mohamed Salah (17 goals, seven assists in 31 league games) has been getting his chances, one that included a header in today’s game against Tottenham that resulted in an own goal on the latter.
The rest of their league games, outside of hosting Chelsea, are teams that Liverpool should easily be able to grab three points against, the biggest flaw that Liverpool cannot allow are walking away from any of these games with a draw, or allowing their opponents to stay in games.
They stumbled coming up with draws against Everton and Manchester United earlier earlier this year, and they let Fulham stick around and tie up the game in the 73rd minute earlier this month, until an 80th minute penalty kick by James Milner put the game away for good. Against Tottenham, if it wasn’t for the own goal committed by Toby Alderweireld in the 90th minute, the game would’ve most likely ended in a draw.
They are coming up against a Chelsea squad that will be motivated, as they are deadlocked with Manchester United for fifth place, and a win will absolutely crucial against them. So if Liverpool can secure convincing wins against their upcoming opponents and grab all 21 points in these next seven matches, they may see themselves hoisting the league trophy at the end of the season.
Tottenham: I wish I could tell you
Five bucks to anybody who can tell me how you go from being ahead of Manchester United by 13 points in December, to only picking up 13 points in your next 12 matches, and being level with a team you were leaps and bounds better than three months ago. Tottenham just hasn’t found any consistency and they’re lucky every other team besides Arsenal and Chelsea have failed to do the same. The latter teams I just mentioned are just one point away from taking Tottenham’s place in the table, and Arsenal are definitely starting to pick up some steam after a 2-0 win against Manchester United earlier in the month.
Harry Kane has been carrying, yes, carrying the offensive attack with 11 goals in the team’s past 13 matches, and he hasn’t received much help from any of the other attackers and midfielders at all. On the other hand, Tottenham has been playing with different formations for some time now, and I don’t think that’s allowed each of the players to find ample time to figure out their role on the pitch, but what I do know is that it’s resulted in only 10 clean sheets for the team, tied with Everton and Crystal Palace who are ninth and 13th on the league table respectively.
Tottenham will travel to play Manchester City on April 20, and will host West Ham later on in the month, other than these two matches, the rest of their league opponents are either stuck in the middle of the table, or are trying to avoid relegation. So while they could theoretically win some of these matches on paper, absolutely nothing is guaranteed after some of these previous performances by the team. Tottenham better buckle down and pray for the best, because the worst is certainly closer than they think, more like one loss away.
Manchester United: Relying on their talented midfield and attackers
Like I mentioned in the Tottenham portion of this article, Manchester United were searching for answers a few months ago, and then they started to find a rhythm and now they’re tied with Tottenham for fourth place in the league table. I don’t know if Tottenham’s incompetence or Manchester United’s perseverance lead to this point, but either way we’re here.
The team is trying to get back on the wagon after falling to Arsenal 2-0 a few weeks back, they got on the right track with a win against Watford yesterday, but they still have to host Manchester City and Chelsea consecutively. Manchester United’s biggest strength lies in their attackers, which consist of world class midfielder Paul Pogba (11 goals and nine assists) and established talents Marcus Rashford (10 goals and six assists), Anthony Martial (10 goals) and Romelu Lukaku(12 goals). These four have accounted for 43 of Manchester United’s 60 league goals this season, and the team’s success hinges on the continued chemistry between these four players.
The team is obviously deep into Champions League play, but if they can stay healthy through those games and pick up as many wins in these next seven league matches, and consistently move the ball upfield, they may be able to usurp Tottenham for third place, which would only be one spot below what they were able to achieve last year.