City fans, and indeed followers of the Premier League in general, could be forgiven for feeling a certain sense of déjà vu as we launch into the final weeks of the season. Five years ago, Liverpool went into the last five fixtures with a slender lead. Five years ago, City showed their class when it mattered most. Five years ago, the Blues won the title and Liverpool were left best of the rest.
Now, with the game in hand played out and City having delivered a masterclass in the local derby, it is they, not Liverpool, who have the Premier League within their grasp. The lead is a solitary point. With three matches left, will history repeat itself?
The remaining fixtures
As we enter the home straight, City are away to Burnley, then host Leicester City before visiting Brighton for the final game of the season. Liverpool play Huddersfield, Newcastle and Wolves.
Liverpool fans will already have a sinking feeling that the Premier League was decided on 24 April. If United had won, or even held City to a draw, that slender lead would have been Liverpool’s. As it is, all the Reds can do is hope for a slip up.
The view from the bookies
If you want to look into a crystal ball, the best place to go is a bookmaker’s website. Those who have been keeping an eye on sites like 8betting.co.uk or other betting sites all season will have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Even when Liverpool were established at the top, or when City had back to back defeats in the run up to Christmas, they still had the Blues as favourites for the league.
Now, in a straight race to the finish and with their destiny in their own hands, it should come as no surprise that the odds are the shortest, they have been all season. City are 1/4 on with most bookmakers, while Liverpool have slipped to 3/1.
A relentless sprint to the finish
Manchester City have now won 11 straight games, and if they win the final three, the title will be theirs with a total points tally of 98. A look at the opposition suggests they should do just that, but Pep Guardiola has been quick to warn against complacency. He knows that Liverpool are also on an unrelenting winning streak and he is also fully aware of what happened on Boxing Day. Leicester will be going all-out to show that their win was no fluke, and with Liverpool waiting to pounce, City cannot afford to drop a single point.
City captain Vincent Kompany has made a similar appeal to the team and fans to remain calm and focused. He told reporters: “In the league, nothing is played out yet. We need three wins. We cannot expect the opponent to drop points."
Of course, both are right. However, with each passing week, it looks increasingly likely that the bookmakers had it right all along and this will be another year of “so close yet so far” for Liverpool.