London: Liverpool can widen the chasm between themselves and Manchester United to a staggering 30 points if they come out on top in the battle between England’s two most successful clubs at Anfield on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men look destined to end a 30-year wait to win a top-flight title, with a 14-point lead over defending champions Manchester City plus a game in hand.
United are a further 13 points back, having also played a game more than their rivals, and in need of a strong end to the campaign to avoid failing to qualify for the Champions League for a second consecutive season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are, however, the only side to have slowed Liverpool’s relentless march towards the Premier League title.
The 1-1 draw between the teams in October was the only time the European champions have dropped points this season. They have now set a record for Europe’s top five leagues, with 20 wins from their opening 21 games.
“Our team have a winning mindset. We always think about the next game, we don’t look too far ahead,” said Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who has conceded just one goal in his past 10 games.
“We focus upon what is within reach at the time and we do everything possible to make sure we leave the pitch with a win and this has contributed to the great results this season.”
The Brazilian number one will be confident of another clean sheet on Sunday, with United’s top scorer Marcus Rashford a serious doubt after lasting just 15 minutes as a second-half substitute in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Wolves in the FA Cup.
“I didn’t want to play him, but we needed the win. It has backfired,” admitted Solskjaer.
– Watford warning for Spurs –
United could find themselves eight points adrift of the top four by the time they kick-off at Anfield if Chelsea win at Newcastle on Saturday.
A win for the Blues on Tyneside would also put Frank Lampard’s men 12 points clear of Tottenham, unless Jose Mourinho’s men can snap Watford’s winning streak at Vicarage Road.
Only Liverpool and City have won more points in the six games since Nigel Pearson took charge of the Hornets, with 13 from their past five matches propelling them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Spurs reduced a 12-point gap to Chelsea when Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino in November down to three prior to their meeting a month later.
But they have won just one of their past five league games, leaving their chances of reaching the Champions League for a fifth straight season hanging by a thread.
“It is possible to talk about top four when you start the season on zero points, but it is hard to talk about it when you start at minus 12,” said Mourinho after last weekend’s defeat by Liverpool.
– Last chance for Norwich –
The bottom two face off at Carrow Road as Norwich host Bournemouth, realistically needing a win to maintain any hope of survival.
Daniel Farke’s side have not won in their past nine league games to fall eight points adrift of safety, but have still claimed more points in the past two months than their visitors.
A run of four points in 11 games has plunged Bournemouth into a relegation battle.
The Cherries are struggling at both ends, conceding 22 goals and scoring just six in that run to put their five-season stay in the top flight under threat.
Saturday (1500 GMT unless stated)
Watford v Tottenham (1230), Arsenal v Sheffield United, Brighton v Aston Villa, Manchester City v Crystal Palace, Norwich v Bournemouth, Southampton v Wolves, West Ham v Everton, Newcastle v Chelsea (1730) Sunday Burnley v Leicester (1400), Liverpool v Manchester United (1630).