Liverpool has a real chance of moving into 2024 leading the way in the Premier League. Its next five games compared to Man City and Arsenal offer an opportunity.
Harvey Elliott saved Liverpool from a poor result after a disappointing performance against Crystal Palace. The Reds’ number 19 popped up with a vital late winner with another excellent cameo off the bench.
It was in Liverpool’s hands to be top of the Premier League at Christmas because it plays Arsenal before then. And this victory sets up an ideal chance to cement that position.
While it is still early days in terms of a title race, talk, should Liverpool remain near the top heading into the new year, as should certainly be possible, will be impossible to quieten. Its fixtures should make it a real possibility, even if Liverpool will have to play much better than it did here.
The late Crystal Palace result sets up a really exciting week after Union SG in the Europa League dead rubber on Thursday is taken care of. After that, three Anfield games inside eight days: Manchester United, West Ham (Carabao Cup) and Arsenal. That clash with the Gunners looks increasingly tantalizing.
Next five Liverpool fixtures in the Premier League: Manchester United (H), Arsenal (H), Burnley (A), Newcastle (H), Bournemouth (A).
Liverpool will have to continue to collect points regularly but while the next run of matches brings some tough teams, the hardest games are at home. That is a distinct advantage: that Liverpool has already played a lot of its most difficult opponents away from Anfield.
Manchester City, by contrast, has a couple of tricky-looking away games with Everton and Newcastle coming up. It also is involved in the Club World Cup so will have played a game fewer than its rivals at the top heading into 2024.
Next five Manchester City fixtures in the Premier League (after Luton (A) tomorrow): Crystal Palace (H) — and then its Brentford game is postponed because of its participation in the Club World Cup. It returns to Premier League action with Everton (A) on December 27, then Sheffield United (H), Newcastle (A), Burnley (H).
But, of course, Pep Guardiola’s men cannot be written off. It could easily go on a run and win each of those matches, and then the pressure would be on Liverpool and Arsenal to keep pace.
Speaking of the Gunners, they have a few harder games coming too. Brighton, Liverpool and West Ham are next, and getting maximum points from those matches will be a challenge.
Next five Arsenal fixtures in the Premier League (after Aston Villa (A) later today): Brighton (H), Liverpool (A), West Ham (H), Fulham (A), Crystal Palace (H).
Arsenal faces Aston Villa later today, of course, who are another team in contention at the very top of the league for now. Talk of the title for Unai Emery’s men might be more than a little premature but they look in a good position to get into the Champions League.
While Liverpool swept Aston Villa aside at Anfield, the Reds still have to go to Villa Park and that will be a major test. Manchester City failed that challenge midweek and Arsenal is up next when it comes to showing just how much title mettle it has.
Ultimately, everything is in Liverpool’s hands. By winning it late against Crystal Palace, Elliott has kept it that way and set up a really interesting next few weeks.