Man City and Arsenal seek to keep heat on Liverpool

football22 February 2024 09:06| © Reuters

With leaders Liverpool otherwise engaged this weekend Manchester City and Arsenal have the chance to close the gap in what is brewing to be the closest Premier League title race for years.

Jurgen Klopp's side hit back to beat Luton Town on Wednesday and stretch their lead to four points as they turn their attention to Sunday's League Cup final against Chelsea.

Champions City, who like Arsenal have played 25 games to Liverpool's 26, head to Bournemouth on Saturday evening before Arsenal then try to settle some scores with Newcastle United.

Liverpool have 60 points to City's 56 and Arsenal's 55 with all three sides knowing that the margins for error are minimal.

City's draw with Chelsea last weekend snapped an 11-match winning streak in all competitions and altered the odds ever so slightly in the title race.

But a hard-fought victory over Brentford in midweek courtesy of Erling Haaland's goal got them back on track and Pep Guardiola's side will be expected to dispatch a Bournemouth team they beat 4-1 this time last year as they chased down Arsenal.

Arsenal's sensational start to 2024 suffered a bump on Wednesday as they lost 1-0 to Porto in their Champions League last-16 clash, failing to have a shot on target.

Mikel Arteta's side can ill afford any hangover from that game as they host Newcastle.

The last time the two sides met Arteta was left seething about the match officials after a 1-0 defeat on Tyneside in November – describing them as "embarrassing and a disgrace".

That was Arsenal's first league defeat of the season but apart from a dip around Christmas they look better-equipped to go the full distance this time after faltering in the face of a Man City onslaught a year ago.

While Manchester United are not in the hunt for the title, they will hope to mark the start of a new era with victory over Fulham on Saturday in their first game since Jim Ratcliffe's acquisition of 25 per cent of the club's shares was completed.

The British billionaire, who is also investing hundreds of millions of pounds into the club's infrastructure, was certainly talking the talk on Wednesday as he mapped out his ambition.

"We have a lot to learn from the noisy neighbour (Manchester City), and our other neighbour (Liverpool). They are the enemy at the end of the day and there's nothing I would like better than to knock both of them - or one of them - off their perch," Ratcliffe told the BBC.

Sixth-placed United will host Fulham in a buoyant mood as they seek to enhance their ambitions of catching Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa and finishing in the top four.

United have 44 points with Villa, who face Nottingham Forest on Saturday, on 49. Tottenham, on 47, have a weekend off.

Crystal Palace's new manager Oliver Glasner will hope to mark his first home game in charge with victory in a vital clash with second-from-bottom Burnley.