What’s gone wrong for out-of-sorts Liverpool?
Jurgen Klopp‘s side look a long way from the team that cruised to title glory last season, not to mention winning the Champions League the previous year.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at home to bitter city rivals Everton - a first derby-day defeat at Anfield for 21-years - a fourth successive setback in the league, has left Liverpool in sixth place, 19 points adrift of leaders Man City.
The question is: what has gone so wrong for the champions this season to see their hopes of retaining the title effectively ended with 13 games still to play?
Is it injuries to defensive personnel Virigl Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, poor form from the previously reliable Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and goalkeeper Alisson Becker, fatigue or something more deep-rooted?
Manchester City v West Ham United
While Liverpool attempt to dissect what has gone wrong this campaign, champions-elect Man City continue to canter towards the title.
The league leaders earned a narrow 1-0 victory away to Arsenal last time out to extend their record-breaking winning sequence to 18 games.
Pep Guardiola’s men remain 10 points clear of city rivals Man United but they’ll remain wary of the threat posed by an in-form West Ham who themselves have enjoyed a stellar season to date.
David Moyes’ side extended their unbeaten run to four matches with a 2-1 victory over London rivals Tottenham to climb into the top four.
West Bromwich Albion v Brighton & Hove Albion
What could prove a pivotal encounter at the wrong end of the table, both teams will be desperate for three points to enhance their hopes of retaining their league status.
The Baggies host Brighton on the back of a goalless draw with Burnley last time out; however, they have still failed to pick up a much needed victory in their previous seven matches.
Sam Allardyce will be well aware of the need to string a run of wins together sooner rather than later, with his side second bottom and 11 points adrift of safety.
Brighton will head to the Midlands still wondering just how they managed to suffer a dramatic 2-1 defeat to rivals Crystal Palace on Monday.
Having dominated possession and had 25 shots on goal, Christian Benteke stole all three points deep into stoppage with only the Eagles third shot in total and second on target.
The defeat left the Seagulls just four points clear of the drop zone and in dire need of a response.
Leeds United v Aston Villa
An intriguing encounter at Elland Road will see both sides aiming to cement their place in the top half of the table.
Leeds heaped further misery on out-of-sorts Southampton last time out with a comfortable 3-0 victory to halt a run of back-to-back defeats.
Eighth placed Villa, two places and one point ahead of tomorrow’s hosts, will be out to get back to winning ways having suffered a disappointing 2-1 derby-day defeat to Midlands rivals Leicester City last time out.
Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Newcastle find themselves just one place above the drop zone with only a three-point advantage over resurgent Fulham in eighteenth.
Geordies fans will be well aware of the fragility of their present plight, in which a third-straight defeat and victory for Fulham would result in the clubs switching position this weekend.
Worryingly for Steve Bruce’s side, Wolves have regained form following their own blip, with Nuno Espírito Santo’s men going in search of a third successive victory after following up a 2-1 success over Southampton with a hard fought 1-0 win against Leeds.
Wolves finally appear to have found a way of coping with the absence of talisman Raul Jimenez, particularly in the form of Portuguese winger Pedro Neto, who has come to to the fore in recent weeks and leads the club’s scoring chart with five goals.
Crystal Palace v Fulham
The collective laughter is probably still ringing around South London after Palace fans saw their side pull off one of the most incredible smash and grab victories against rivals Brighton on Monday.
After seeing new signing Jean-Philippe Mateta open his Eagles account with an audacious back-heel, the familiar doom and scepticism returned as Brighton levelled before dominating the entire second half.
However, after withstanding the onslaught, a remarkable conclusion saw Benteke volley a dramatic winner for Palace deep into added time with only their second shot on target to snatch not only all three points but bragging rights.
Roy Hodgson’s men will be aiming to build on that momentum but face a tough prospect of an improving Fulham side who could drag themselves out of the drop zone with victory at Selhurst Park.
A 1-0 victory over basement-boys Sheffield United extended Fulham’s unbeaten run to four matches and they will now have seventeenth-placed Newcastle firmly in their sights.
Leicester City v Arsenal
Leicester further emphasised their outside shot as title challengers after overcoming rivals Aston Villa in a 2-1 win last weekend.
That left the Foxes in third place, level on points with Man United one above them. While they remain ten points adrift of leaders Man City, manager Brendan Rodgers will be desperate for his side to maintain the pressure on the those above them.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal will be aiming to bounce back after suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Man City.
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley
A team in need of a spark to reignite their season is Tottenham Hotspur.
Having led the way earlier this season, Spurs’ form has taken a downturn to see them now languishing well off the pace in ninth place and a massive 23 points adrift of the summit.
Spurs manager José Mourinho has come under scrutiny in recent weeks and he will desperate to make amends for a 2-1 defeat against London rivals West Ham last time out.
However, they may face a tough task up against 15th-placed Burnley who will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run to five matches.
Chelsea v Manchester United
Chelsea continue to enjoy life under new manager Thomas Tuchel.
Since replacing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge in January, the German has remained unbeaten at the helm, taking the Blues to fifth place, six points adrift of Sunday’s visitors Manchester United.
United remain Man City’s main rival in the title challenge, however manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be well aware of not allowing their bitter rivals to pull ant further clear at the summit.
One positive United can look to is that they have not suffered defeat against Chelsea in their previous six league encounters.
Sheffield United v Liverpool
On paper a trip to basement-boys Sheffield United could be seen as the perfect tonic to Liverpool’s present woes.
Having enjoyed somewhat of a mini revival last month, United’s form has taken a turn for the worse again, with a 1-0 loss to relegation rivals Fulham making it three defeats on the spin.
The visitors welcome Liverpool to Bramall Lane rooted at the foot of the table and 14 points adrift of seventeenth placed Newcastle and safety.
Everton v Southampton
Another club in need of a change of fortune more than most are Southampton.
No one’s league form in recent weeks has been as bad as the Saints, who suffered a seventh successive defeat in a 3-0 loss away to Leeds on Tuesday.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side have plummeted down the table to find themselves in fourteenth and worryingly only eight points clear of the drop zone.
They won’t relish a trip to Everton, who will be buoyed by their first derby-day victory at their bitter rivals in 21 years.
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