In what promises to be to be a compelling double-header in the Premier League title race this weekend will happen on Sunday when Manchester City visit Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, while Liverpool host Chelsea.
This Sunday fixtures seems to be a coincidence to what happened five seasons ago in the title race. Back in April 2014, Demba Ba’s goal at Anfield — following Steven Gerrard’s slip and crucial loss of the ball — proved to be the decisive moment in that season’s title race with City. Liverpool lost 2-0 that day and, hours later, City won 2-0 at Palace to reclaim the initiative and ensure that their destiny was once again in their own hands. City won their next three games to win the title and leave Liverpool — and Gerrard — haunted by that unforgettable slip against Chelsea.
But does what happened five years ago really matter in this year’s title race? Not one player from Liverpool’s starting outfielders that day remains at Anfield while only Sergio Aguero, of the City side at Palace in 2014, is likely to be involved this weekend. These might be different times and different players but when it comes to winning a title, the ghosts of the past and fear of what might happen always become an issue at this stage of the race.
Liverpool’s challenge this season is different to City’s. City are chasing their fourth title in seven years, but Liverpool are having to deal with the burden of expectancy and the sense of desperation that comes with not having won the league since 1990.
“City have a different pressure to deal with due to the team’s pursuit of a Quadruple. In the league they’ve looked almost serene at times, winning without having to over-exert themselves, but their fixture demands could trigger the fatigue which then becomes a psychological problem. Perhaps, then, the outcome of the title race will boil down to the simple equation of which falters first: City’s legs or Liverpool’s minds. The pressure of chasing a title will obviously drain both,” wrote Mark Ogden Senior Writer, ESPN FC
But Liverpool continue to grind out results and The Reds may have found their ruthless best again but they face arguably their biggest test between now and the end of the season.
Liverpool drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge earlier this season and a repeat of that result is most unlikely as the Reds fight to cover up with Manchester City threatening. They must defeat Chelsea on Sunday or they may start kissing the title goodbye.
Liverpool endured a tricky spell in February and March, drawing four of six Premier League matches, but they are now back in the swing of things. They have won six games in a row in all competitions, including four in the league, and are handling the pressure admirably.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said: “We should be confident. It’s a great time to be a Liverpool player.
“Hopefully, there are (a maximum) of few games left in total if all goes well, fingers crossed. Let’s give everything we’ve got and have a well-deserved break after.”
Liverpool and Chelsea always have close games and five of their last eight Premier League fixtures have ended in 1-1 draws.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have given their top-four hopes a major shot in the arm since the defeat at Everton last month.
The Blues have reeled off three consecutive wins, beating Cardiff, Brighton and West Ham, the latter of which came following a stunning performance from dangerman Eden Hazard.
Liverpool know all about the Belgian, who netted a brilliant solo goal at Anfield in the League Cup in September and is likely to be rested for Thursday’s Europa League tie to keep him in prime condition for Sunday.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri said: “It’s impossible to find another Hazard; at the moment there isn’t another Hazard. The level is so high. In the world you can’t find another player like that.”
Their European exploits may take Chelsea time to get a foothold in the game, but they have scored on their last nine visits to Anfield.
Before this game Manchester City who are also chasing the league shield alongside Liverpool will be guest of Crystal Palace