The wider world might be looking pretty wobbly right now, but thankfully the Premier League is offering plenty of distraction. And even with the cruel absence of supporters in stadiums, football’s “best league in the world” has rarely looked more intriguing.
As we approach the halfway point of the season, seven teams are separated by just a four-point gap. Liverpool lead the way on 33 points – but Jurgen Klopp’s juggernaut of a side is showing vulnerability, at least on the road.
The Merseyside team’s loss to Southampton on Monday night is just the latest blow for Klopp, with Liverpool failing to win seven of their last eight away games in the league. And that failure has allowed other sides in the Prem to make this a real title race.
Manchester United are right in the thick of things, level on points with the leaders – and with a game in hand. Leicester City are just a point shy of the top two, while Tottenham, Man City, Southampton and Everton are all in contention on 29 points.
Of that group, Man City have the pedigree and the playing power to put them firmly in the mix – and unlike their rivals, Pep Guardiola’s side also have two games in hand over Liverpool.
In fact, Man City are currently favourites to win the Prem; City are 10/11 shots in the outright market to be champions, with Liverpool available at 11/4, and Man United a 6/1 chance. But if you’re anticipating further upsets over the latter half of the season, it could pay to consider one of the other sides.
Spurs are currently 14/1 to be champions, with Leicester rated as 33/1 shots, Everton 80/1 – and Southampton 150/1 to provide the biggest shock in football since the Foxes reigned supreme in 2016. Find all the latest Premier League outright betting here
So how vulnerable are Liverpool? The inescapable strangeness of this fan-free season can perhaps be used to explain one-off, eyebrow-raising losses – and they don’t come much more extraordinary than Villa’s 7-2 demolition of Klopp’s team, back in early October.
Away draws to Everton and Man City since then are hardly proof that Klopp’s grip is starting to slip, of course. But those results have been followed by draws with the league’s lesser lights, Brighton, Fulham and West Brom (at Anfield!) each taking a point against Liverpool.
Southampton certainly offer a sterner test than those previous three sides, but it’s still a concern that Liverpool are in something of a rut on the road. Is this just a sorry sequence that’s ultimately meaningless, or a glimpse of something more concerning for the (current) league leaders?
Liverpool’s next game comes against their nearest rivals, Manchester United. The game takes place at Anfield, where Liverpool remain unbeaten across an amazing 67 league games – even if the most recent home match ended in deadlock with the Baggies.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been much derided, occasionally even on these pages – but the Norwegian is unbeaten since the beginning of November, Manchester United winning eight of their last 10 matches.
Not since January 2016 have United won at Anfield – but with Ole and Bruno Fernandes bringing the feel-good factor back to Man United, could the visitors move ahead of their bitter rivals?
Even if United fall short at Anfield, this season looks wide open. Klopp himself predicted the title race “will go right to the wire” before the Southampton game. Whether or not Man United can continue to maintain the pressure, Pep Guardiola is assuredly putting himself right up there – and if it comes to a battle between the multi-trophy winning City boss and a man often compared unflatteringly to a PE teacher, you’d think Solskjaer might not come out on top.
Then again, in the last five meetings between City and United (including the Carabao Cup), City have won just once, with United winning home and away. Ole back at the wheel with a vengeance? If the last year has shown us anything, it’s probably that we shouldn’t rule anything out.
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