Advantage Man City in the Premier League title race after losses for Arsenal and Liverpool

Man City players hurdle before a past match.[Man City,X]

With a certain inevitability, Manchester City is suddenly in charge of the Premier League title race.

Arsenal and Liverpool both produced lethargic performances under pressure and lost home matches on Sunday, leaving City — seeking an unprecedented fourth straight English top-flight title — with a two-point lead with six games remaining.

After Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace for its first league defeat at Anfield in 18 months, Arsenal was beaten 2-0 by Aston Villa for its first league defeat in 2024.

With the three contenders entering this weekend separated by one point, this season’s title race was being billed as the best in years — and potentially one for the ages.

There might still be twists and turns but many will be ready to already crown City, which beat Luton 5-1 on Saturday and rarely drops points in the final months of title campaigns, as the likely top team in England.

Again.

It was around this time of the year that Arsenal started to implode last season, as a typically fast-finishing City reeled in Mikel Arteta’s team.

Has it happened again? Playing between a double-header against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals, Arsenal’s players certainly lacked their usual spark as goals by Leon Bailey in the 84th and Ollie Watkins — who grew up supporting Arsenal — earned fourth-place Villa a big win in its own bid for Champions League qualification.

“It was going to happen at some stage,” Arteta said. “With the games we had, it was going to happen. Now how we react to it is going to be the key.”

Since losing to Fulham on Dec. 31, Arsenal had won 10 of its 11 games in the league and drawn the other one.

“With the amount of games we have won in a row, in any other league in the world you are six or eight points clear,” Arteta said. “It’s not the case now but this is the challenge.”

It will have been a satisfying victory for Villa manager Unai Emery, who was fired by Arsenal in 2019 after 18 months in charge as long-time coach Arsene Wenger’s replacement.

Arsenal has the best defense in England, but has conceded four goals at home in the space of five days after a 2-2 draw with Bayern on Tuesday.

A few hours earlier at Anfield, Liverpool — playing three days after losing 3-0 to Atalanta in the Europa League quarterfinals — failed to respond to going behind to Eberechi Eze’s 14th-minute goal.

Liverpool’s season is falling apart. It wasn’t long ago that the team was on for a quadruple of trophies in Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge, with the English League Cup already secured.

Now, the Reds are out of the FA Cup after losing to Manchester United in the quarterfinals last month, are facing elimination in the Europa League, and now the third-favorite in the Premier League.

“We feel really, really rubbish,” Klopp said. “We need a bit of time to process that. It’s a really bad moment ... we have to see how we react.”

“If we play like we did in the first half, why should we win the league? If we play like we did in the second half, yes we can pick up points here and there. If we play as good as we can, we will go for it.”

City, which is on a 27-match unbeaten run in all competitions, is on 73 points and has the easier run-in to Arsenal and Liverpool, on paper anyway.

Arsenal and Liverpool are on 71, with Arsenal ahead on goal difference.

WEST HAM LOSES

Like Liverpool, West Ham has had a tough few days in the Europa League and Premier League.

After becoming the latest team to succumb to Bayer Leverkusen with a 2-0 loss in the Europa quarterfinals on Thursday, West Ham then lost by the same score to Fulham to hurt its ambitions of getting back in continental competition next season.

David Moyes’ team is in eighth place, outside the European qualification spots as it stands.

Brazil midfielder Andreas Pereira scored either side of halftime for Fulham, which is in 12th place — safe from relegation but likely too far from getting into Europe.

By AFP 38 mins ago
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