Manchester City are in a better position than almost anyone could have anticipated after back to back losses to Leicester and Newcastle in December.
More recently, the shock 2-1 defeat to Newcastle put the Blues’ title hopes in great doubt, but Pep Guardiola’s men have a resilience rarely seen from a Premier League side in recent years.
As the Premier League standings show, City are now neck-and-neck with Liverpool and you could point to both teams’ first game of 2019, against each other, as the point when the title race was given new life.
City defeated Jurgen Klopp’s side 2-1 at the Etihad in a pulsating game and that led to six successive wins after – albeit it a few of them against lower league opposition in the cups – before the setback against Newcastle.
The defeat to Newcastle was a major blow, but once again City have bounced back in trying circumstances, taking a maximum of nine points from a tough week in which they faced, and beat, Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea.
Despite Liverpool’s game in hand, which will be played down the road, Manchester City are now the bookmakers’ favourites to win the Premier League for a second time in a row – and that would be a significant achievement.
Not since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United a decade ago have a reigning Premier League champion been able to retain their crown, such is the competitive nature of the English top-flight now with so much television money being evenly distributed.
Guardiola instills a steely mentality into his players that makes this team unlike any other in recent years, and credit must go out to Liverpool and even Tottenham for building formidable sides, because in any other year this City side would be unstoppable – as they showed last season when they practically had the Premier League won by Christmas.
It remains to be seen if City’s extra fixtures hinder or help their charge for the Premier League title. The Blues are in two more competitions than Liverpool, although the Carabao Cup has only one match left, the final against Chelsea.
Liverpool were surprisingly knocked out of the FA Cup in the early rounds, while City have progressed with comfort, but both sides remain in the big one – the UEFA Champions League – with City drawing Schalke and Liverpool also getting German opposition, the formidable Bayern Munich.
It may come down to a battle of endurance between Pep’s City and Klopp’s Liverpool, and we can’t rule out Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham who are loitering just behind despite a raft of injuries to key players.
There’s plenty of time to go in the 2018-19 Premier League season but thanks to Manchester City’s bounceback ability, what could easily have been Liverpool coasting to their first title since 1990 now has the makings of a thrilling title race.