Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures – Manchester City or Liverpool?

The Premier League season is approaching its end but the title race remains a close run thing.

Manchester City, the reigning champions, opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table at the weekend but still need another seven to ensure their title defence is successful.

Liverpool, the challengers, put up an extraordinary run of 13 wins from 14 games to close the gap on City but dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur that could prove fatal to their title hopes.

Both sides have three games remaining and both play away from home in midweek, taking trips to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa respectively.

With the title set to be decided either this weekend or next, The Independent has analysed the final part of their run-ins.

Points: 86

Avg. opponent PpG: 1.43

Run-in difficulty: ★★½

Look at Wolves’ league position, consider the reputation they have earned for compact and defensively solid football, and you might think this will be a difficult test for City. Bruno Lage’s side have been one of this season’s overachievers and currently sit eighth after earning a creditable late draw at Stamford Bridge this weekend.

The underlying numbers do not make for especially pretty reading, though, and particularly when Wolves are playing at home. 1.35 points-per-game at Molineux is only good enough for a place in the bottom half of the home table, while their xG difference of -9.1 is the worst of any side not called Watford or Norwich.

The most difficult remaining fixture of City’s run-in could have been rendered a walkover if West Ham had reached the Europa League final. With just three days between this game and the Seville showpiece, David Moyes would surely have rotated and sent out a second-string side against a team on the verge of the title.

Instead, City may have something of a game on their hands. West Ham’s 1.72 points-per-game at home this season is only bettered by the traditional members of the so-called ‘big six’. Their xG difference of +7.6 is the seventh-best in the top flight and superior to Manchester United’s.

If City still have not wrapped things up by the final day, the thought of being denied the title by Steven Gerrard will be unbearable. And though the Aston Villa manager will be focused on his side ending the season as well as possible, he and Philippe Coutinho would hardly turn their nose up at a chance of revenge for 2014.

Villa’s record on the road is average but jumps to 1.58 points-per-game if only counting the 12 away days of Gerrard’s tenure. If that was replicated across the whole season, only the top four would have a better record. Their +1.1 xG difference over those games is not especially impressive but better than Arsenal’s over the course of the season.

Points: 83

Avg. opponent PpG: 1.40

Run-in difficulty: ★★

Gerrard could have a say in this title race much earlier than the final day, of course. If Villa can take a point or three off his former club on home turf on Tuesday, City will be confident of crossing the finish line in first place no matter what the result at Molineux the following evening.

But Villa’s home record over the season is poor – 1.31 points-per-game leaves them firmly in the bottom half of the table – and has actually declined to 1.27 since Gerrard’s arrival in the autumn. An xG difference of +3.0 suggests they have been unlucky at times but it was only really the Manchester United draw and Tottenham defeat where they deserved more.

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