In pictures: Leicester v Liverpool
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The Premier League title race may just be already effectively over after Liverpool lost to Leicester on Tuesday night. Reigning champions Manchester City are now six points clear at the summit and though there are 19 games – therefore half the season – still to go, the statistics suggest that City may have now established a gap that makes them all-but uncatchable.
Since their shock loss to Crystal Palace at the Etihad at the end of October, Pep Guardiola’s charges have won all of their last nine top-flight matches, scoring 30 goals and conceding only six.
And the Citizens are now six points clear of title rivals Liverpool and Chelsea in second and third respectively, with both of the pair having suffered slip-ups recently.
Liverpool drew away at Tottenham last Sunday and then slipped to a 1-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium against Leicester as Mohamed Salah missed a penalty.
Sadio Mane missed a fantastic one-on-one opportunity while Kasper Schmeichel also saved well to deny Salah after previously stopping the Egyptian from scoring from the spot.
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Ademola Lookman scored the only goal of the game to leave the Reds frustrated in the Midlands, just days after they had knocked the same opponents out of the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Liverpool have the exact same record after 19 matches as Champions League holders Chelsea with 12 wins, five draws and two defeats.
The Reds have scored 50 goals, the same as City, and conceded 16, which is four more than City who have the best defensive record in the division.
Leicester was the first time in any match this season that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool had failed to score a goal, having totalled 75 in 27 games before this.
It was also the first time Liverpool have lost a league match in December since 2016 when they suffered a 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth, having since gone 35 games unbeaten in the last month of the year.
And as statistician Andrew Beasley pointed out on Twitter, City’s tally of 47 points from 19 games – which has come from 15 wins, two draws and two defeats – means they have a very strong chance of retaining their title.
If City maintain their points-per-game average from the first half of the season in the New Year, Liverpool and Chelsea will need to manage records of 17 wins, two draws and no losses just to draw level with the Citizens.
That therefore means that barring an incredible spring implosion, the like of which has not ever been seen by Guardiola’s City, the title is again likely to end up in Manchester in May.
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City can stretch the gap at the top, at least temporarily, to nine points on Wednesday night when they take on Brentford away from home and they then face Arsenal at the Emirates in the first match of 2022 on New Year’s Day.
Both of those matches come before Liverpool play again meaning that the Reds could find themselves 12 points behind when they come to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (January 2).
Speaking to Amazon Prime post-match, Liverpool boss Klopp admitted that City’s points advantage is a “big gap” for his side to bridge. He said: “It’s a big gap [to City]. In this moment the gap to City is not my problem. If we play football like this more often, we don’t have to think about it.
“If we play our normal football, Liverpool football, we have the chance to win more football games. Then we will see where we end up. At the moment this is not our main problem.”
While defender Virgil van Dijk reflected: “What can we say? We’re in December. The season is still so long. Anything can happen still.
“You have seen it with Covid and also with injuries – things can change. There’s no point looking at them [Man City] or Chelsea or the other teams around us at this point in the season. And we won’t.
“We should look at our performance today and improve and take it with us to the next game. We all wanted to do better today. That’s a fact. Unfortunately we weren’t good enough and they deserved the win.”
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