This is one of the most tightly-fought Premier League title races in the competition’s history. If the top three teams — Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham — continue on their current pace, then they will finish on 97, 90, and 86 points.
That third-place points haul would be enough to have won the league in two seasons in the past decade, and enough to be level with the winners in a further two. That’s just how incredibly competitive this title race is.
We’ve taken a look at who’s in the best position to win it.
Looking at the statistics beyond results give an idea of how good a side is and, therefore, how likely they are to continue their good form. And we can immediately rule Tottenham out of the running.
The difference between their expected goals and their opponents’ expected goals is 8.59, or +0.41 per game, far below Liverpool (+1.31) and City’s (+1.39). The indications are that Spurs have been fairly fortuitous on both sides of the ball, scoring around ten more than expected and conceding five fewer.
So then there were two.
The gap between Liverpool and City’s expected goals per game probably isn’t anything significant for the Reds to worry about. They’re both great teams and the difference isn’t huge.
However, there is something that Jurgen Klopp and co might want to worry about.
Expected goals look at where the ball is when the shot is struck, to evaluate the quality of the chance. We can also look at ‘post-shot’ expected goals models, which include shot placement, to get a more complete picture of how likely a shot is to become a goal.
On this front, Liverpool are significantly outperforming their post-shot expected goals in defence, conceding just ten from 16.77 post-shot expected goals. They’re pretty much level in attack (47 goals from 46.52 post-shot xG), and Man City are pretty much level on both sides of the ball (53 goals from 53.21 post-shot xG in attack; 17 goals from 18.91 post-shot xG conceded in defence).
The missing 6.77 goals could be accounted for by a supremely good season from Alisson. He and David de Gea, for example, both saved around 12 goals against the post-shot expected goals they faced during 2017/18, for example.
However, such seasons are rare. If Alisson starts saving shots at an expected rate, or even just comes closer to it, then Manchester City’s superior attack edges them ahead. Given that Liverpool have a four-point head start, things could get tight.
Liverpool will hope that their current shortage of centre-backs doesn’t affect them as significantly as Manchester City losing Fernandinho hurt them.
Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip are all out injured for the moment, meaning that Fabinho could start alongside Virgil van Dijk this weekend against Brighton. The situation highlights something that Liverpool fans have feared in a title race with City — their squad depth.
City, with all their riches, are more or less covered across the field in case of injuries. The only places they aren’t are at defensive midfield and full-back which, unfortunately for them, are where they’ve had starters on the sidelines. Their wealth of attacking talent has been shown by the fact that they haven’t missed Kevin de Bruyne, one of the best players of 2017/18, one jot.
If that’s an edge that Liverpool need to worry about, then the game that brought their injury problems to the front of peoples’ minds may give them comfort. Fixture schedule. Now that they’re out of the FA Cup, Liverpool may have more energy to focus on the league.
They also have the better share of home and away matches (nine home, eight away; City have the reverse).
What’s more, they only face fellow top six teams three times before the end of the season, while City have four match-ups (both sides have only one of these matches away from home).
Looking through the data, and considering several different angles, Liverpool and Manchester City seem even closer than before. As the current leaders, it’s the Reds who probably deserve to be favourites. But only just.
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