Even if Manchester City leave Anfield with all three points on Sunday afternoon, Joe Hart still believes there will be plenty of miles left in the title race.
Having surrendered their title without much of a fight last season, the Blues are determined to wrestle the crown back from Old Trafford this term. And with Manuel Pellegrini bolstering his squad with the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas, to complement what was already the strongest squad in the division, the majority of pundits and supporters across the country labelled them favourites back in August.
And whilst City have been in contention for the duration of the campaign, they travel to Merseyside this weekend to take on a rejuvenated Liverpool side. The Reds, who have not won the title since they secured it for the 18th time way back in 1990, have been sensational over the past seven months, and they currently lead the table with a two point lead over second-placed Chelsea, who are yet to visit Anfield this season.
But although Pellegrini’s side lurk behind in third place, they are just four points behind the leaders and, crucially, they have two games in hand. So if they collect maximum points on Sunday they will be well in control of the destination of the title, but Hart insists their celebrations will be at a minimum. Because with six more games to negotiate after this weekend, the England ace knows there could be more twists ahead.
“I look at the games,” he told The Times. “Liverpool are going for the title, so that will be tough. Then it’s Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, who are fighting for their lives. Crystal Palace are desperate to stay up. Everton are going for the top four. Then Aston Villa, who could still be in the relegation battle, and West Ham United is always hard. Every single one is a different challenge. There are none that are easier than the rest.”
If, on the other hand, Liverpool were to record a victory on Sunday, you could perhaps excuse their supporters for celebrating. It would be their tenth successive win in the Premier League, and more significantly, it would put them seven points clear of City and five ahead of Chelsea, who play later the same day away to Swansea City. Rodgers’ side have not been on the losing side since they lost at Stamford Bridge 2-1 in December, and this has been the platform in their quest to end a 24-year wait to be crowned champions.
As well as welcoming Jose Mourinho’s side to Anfield, Liverpool travel to relegation threatened Norwich City and Crystal Palace before ending the campaign at home to Newcastle United. Whilst their form dictates they will be confident ahead of each of these matches, James Milner wonders if the pressure of a title race will affect them.
“There is pressure on all the leading clubs and it’s all down to who handles it the best,” the City midfielder told The Sun. “We’ve been here before and have won the title recently, whereas Liverpool haven’t won for a long time. As the finishing line gets closer, games that looked easier a few weeks ago prove to be anything but. It’s still in our hands because if we win seven games, we’ll be the champions, but Liverpool are in the box-seat because they are top and have the points already on the board so for me, they are favourites.”