Liverpool missed their chance to close their Premier League deficit to Manchester City to just three points after losing 1-0 to Leicester City last night, and could be 12 points behind the Mancunians before they next take to the field.
What began as a two or even three horse race has whittled down to what could be a case of a serious favourite running away with it.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City didn’t play last night and their closest rivals failed to cut the gap.
Football doesn’t always go your way and Liverpool’s struggles against a Leicester side who shipped six goals to City on Boxing Day proved that.
Star man Mo Salah had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel before a seemingly endless amount of scoring opportunities passed by the Reds. It came down to Leicester substitute Ademola Lookman to score the first and only goal of the game, but the winger may have done more then just decide one game.
Level on 19 games played, the top four are now stretched by 12 points. Manchester City sit top on 47 with Liverpool and Chelsea in second and third on 41 – Arsenal currently hold the last Champions League qualifying place – in fourth – on 35 points.
The Christmas fixture schedule is relentless – teams are often forced to field sides three times in a week.
And in the 2021-22 season, the fixtures have seemingly opened up a psychological opportunity for Manchester City to exploit.
Guardiola’s men travel to Brentford tonight – Chelsea host Brighton in the other Premier League match – and then to Arsenal for the early Saturday kick off.
What does this mean for Manchester City and Liverpool?
Well, City could kick off 2022 nine points ahead and be clear by 12 before Liverpool next play in the Premier League – when they travel to Chelsea on Sunday.
Of course Liverpool would have those two games in hand but two City wins presents Klopp with the battle of only ever being able to close the gap to six without having to rely on City mistakes.
And with the Africa Cup of Nations meaning the departure of Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane for Liverpool, the side could be seriously hindered in the coming weeks.
On the other hand, Manchester City lose Algerian Riyad Mahrez for the competition, which starts on 9 January and finishes on 6 February – Salah’s Egypt are among the favourites.
No easy fix for Norwich
Dean Smith’s new job at the helm of Norwich City has got off to a bumpy start and last night his side were beaten 3-0 by a very impressive Crystal Palace outfit.
Palace have lost just once at home in the Premier League under coach Patrick Vieira (10 games) – who missed the game through Covid-19 – and racked up their three goals though French duo Odsonne Edouard and Jean-Philippe Mateta and Ghanaian Jeffrey Schlupp in the first half.
The Canaries have scored just eight times in the Premier League season (19 games), the joint-lowest tally in a top-flight season after 19 games alongside Leicester City in 1977-78, and conceded six penalties.
There’s no easy fix for Smith, who has enjoyed wins over Brentford and Southampton in November, but January’s transfer window could prove pivotal to his side if they’re to stay up this season.
The transfer window opens on Saturday and will remain open until the 31st of next month.
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