By James Miller – @JamesMillernews
Having spent most of the Premier League season topping the Premier League, including Christmas Day, the race for Liverpool’s first ever crown under the league’s new profile remains out of the their hands.
Weeks of anticipation and in some cases nerves for the highly anticipated Manchester Derby last week came to a close, Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side once more reigned successful in their neighbours’ backyard. The Citizens seized the initiative in an intriguing race for the title, winning 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Going into the fixture, tensions were so high you wouldn’t believe. It seems that a large portion of Manchester United’s faithful wanted their rivals to win – even with the risk of missing out on Champions League football – purely to deny Jürgen Klopp and his Liverpool side a place in history.
With the league reaching its climax and evidently not many neutrals hoping for a Red triumph the theories continue to set in motion. Questions as to whether United deliberately made mistakes to benefit their blue neighbours, for me seem ridiculous.
Jesse Lingard spurned a chance that, yes, on another day should be in the back of the net. However, the ball has come at him so quickly and he’s surely not expecting it to get past the veteran defender in Vincent Kompany.
As for David De Gea’s mistake… well, let’s be honest, the Spaniard has been far from his usual world-class self. In my honest opinion, he wants out of Old Trafford and the Premier League.
It’s now time for new hope though, Manchester United have little relevance to Liverpool’s title challenge any more. Regardless of what opposition fans are saying, whoever wins the Premier League this season will have done so through sheer quality and determination to succeed.
Both teams have been magnificent it has to be said. It is almost confirmed that the second placed side will finish with over 90 points. Remarkable.
As for Liverpool fans though, there has to remain hope. Having come this far, to dismiss the chance of lifting that illustrious trophy, which is the Premier League, would simply be ludicrous. Especially when you look at some of City’s fixtures remaining. Both sides still have games to play and some stern opposition left remaining. Nothing is settled, far from it.
Manchester City’s remaining three fixtures:
Liverpool’s remaining two fixtures:
The containing Clarets
Turf Moor is notorious as a tough place to go as an opposition player. Sean Dyche’s side initially struggled this season with a threat of relegation in the early stages. It appeared that European football may have just came too soon for Burnley and the fixture pile up affected the side who finished seventh just last season.
Putting that aside though, Burnley will almost certainly look to contain City this Sunday with grit and resilience possibly their strongest aspects as a side. By no means will the Clarets look to go toe-to-toe with the league leaders, but they will try to make it very difficult and dogged. They are known for keeping things compact, while using a physical vocal point going forward.
A front pairing of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood this season has returned 21 goals in the league. It’s not just goals that make them a threat though, their immaculate understanding of each other’s positioning means that they can cause almost any defence problems if they turned up to the party.
It was only on Monday that we saw a Barnes goal assisted by his partner in crime at Stamford Bridge, in a game which could dent Chelsea’s hopes of securing Champions League football. They showed no sympathy for Eden Hazard and co, something Red’s fans will hope stays the same for the visit of the champions.
It’s a tall order for a side that were drubbed 5-0 earlier in the season at the Etihad but having already snatched points from three top six sides this season, Dyche will be out to make it four.
Can Burnley do it?