Thursday, December 6, 2018

Is the league still winnable? Can we surpass CIty? A look at the remaining schedules.

It has officially become a two horse race.  Sure, Spurs, Chelsea, and even the Gunners could go on a run, but in the end, it will take a significant collapse by City and LFC to allow those clubs back in the hunt for the PL title.  Probably not going to happen.  City is on pace to bank 104 points, while LFC is on track for 99, neither will probably end up with those totals, but it is most likely safe to say they will end up one and two.  The greatest factor is, barring injuries, the remaining schedule.

I cannot stand when people try to claim that strength of schedule is not a factor in the PL.  Yes, every team plays one another twice, once at home and once on the road, but when these matches are played is very important as well.  It is better to play tougher opponents earlier in the schedule or after rest periods, especially away.  Almost any opponent on the road is going to be tough as it is.

So far this season, City has played seven out of fifteen matches on the road.  Liverpool have only played eight, but it is still one more match that they are more likely to get 3 points.  City has played Arsenal, Tottenham, and LFC away, earning an impressive 7 points, with the only non-win being at Anfield.  They were lucky to play the Gunners on the opening round, now I doubt they would have gotten away with a similar 2-0 result since Arsenal has improved significantly. That is also a factor, some clubs get better as the season progressives and Arsenal, Everton, Brighton, Newcastle, and West Ham have all showed improvement since the beginning.  This also means that City have yet to play at Chelsea and United, which I'm hoping the latter is actually a contest.  I don't think I have ever cheered United on, it will be painful, but I have to do so if I hope for the league title.  Liverpool have played at Spurs, Chelsea, and at Gunners, earning 5 points.  They had the misfortune of playing an improved Gunners side in week 11 and honestly, they were lucky to come away with a point.

Neither LFC nor City have played any significant opponents at home other than themselves at Anfield, so those fixtures are probably must wins for the Reds if they have any aspirations to win the league.  City have yet to host Liverpool, which has to be considered the most important fixture left.  A win would be monumental, but a draw is probably the best to hope for.  They play on January 3rd.

If we look at remaining fixtures, who has the tougher schedule? The hardest fixtures left for Liverpool are home to United (12/16), at City (1/3), at United (2/23), at Everton (2/3), home to Spurs (4/6), and home to Chelsea (4/13).  City has at Chelsea (12/8), home to LFC (1/3), home to Arsenal (2/2), home to Chelsea (2/9),  at Everton (2/23), at United (3/16), and home to Spurs (4/20).   That leaves Liverpool with one less 'hardest' fixture and a potential six point swing, though that is optimistic.

Between the two sides, City really only have the only bad result with a draw at Wolves, so lets look at the potential 'upsets'.  Liverpool very well could lose or concede points at Bournemouth in two days (they are sixth in the league after all), at West Ham (2/2),at Wolves (12/21), and at Newcastle (5/4).  I highly doubt points will be lost at Newcastle, but karma (Rafa) may come into play.  City have  home to Everton (12/15), at Newcastle (1/29),  and at Bournemouth (3/2).  Liverpool have it a little rougher with these mid-table/trending fixtures, but we are really only talking maybe a two-point margin.

Finally, the other onerous factor is schedule congestion with regards to opponent strength. City has to play at Chelsea, Leicester, and Southampton, and home to Everton, CP, Liverpool in a 35 day period between 1/8 and 2/3.  They play their toughest matches first (at Chelsea) and last (home to Liverpool), with only one 'challenging' in between (at Everton).  Meanwhile, LFC have to play away to Bournemouth, Wolverhampton, and City, and at home to United, Newcastle, and Arsenal.  Liverpool clearly have a tougher schedule during this period.

There is also Champions League, FA Cup, and League Cup fixtures to consider, but based on just the PL schedule, Liverpool have a slight advantage though it will take a at least one significant upset on City's part and a perfect LFC run to win the league.  I don't want to say anything is impossible though.

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