Breaking down the final stretch of the Premier League

Alex Livesey

After Liverpool seized control of the Premier League, how do the last four weeks of the season play out for the three contenders?

Watching Steven Gerrard's emotional huddle with his Liverpool team after beating Manchester City 3-2 on Sunday, it was easy for fans of both teams to forget that there's nearly a month left to play in the EPL. Liverpool have taken control, but the Premier League is never as simple as it seems. Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea all still have a legitimate chance for the league title, setting us up for a frantic finish over the last four weeks of the season.

Kev already looked at Sunday's match, so now we'll have a look at the three contenders and their respective paths for the last four weeks of the season.

Team P GD Points
Liverpool 34 +51 77
Chelsea 34 +42 75
Manchester City 32 +54 70

Manchester City

Odds: 11/5 or 9/4

While his team no longer directly controls the outcome of the league, Manuel Pellegrini insisted on Sunday the Liverpool loss did not seal his team's fate.

"I said before the game that this is not the end of the Premier League," the manager said.

Although he's right in saying the league goes on, catching Liverpool will be another story. To win the league, City essentially must have a perfect stretch, while also hoping for a Liverpool slip-up. The six matches left on City's schedule would not be overly difficult (average league position: 12.83) if perfection weren't mandated. The two away games--Crystal Palace and Everton--represent the most likely stumbling blocks, but City's inconsistency means none of the six matches are guarantees.

City benefit from the two other contenders playing each other during the home stretch, with a Chelsea win or draw against Liverpool pushing the league into chaos. With margins slimmer than ever, though, playing two games more than Liverpool could be City's undoing.

City's task also increases with difficulty depending on the severity of Yaya Toure's injury. The Ivorian departed after 18 minutes on Sunday, and the remainder of his season looks to be in doubt. It's hard to imagine a Toure-less City finishing the season perfectly.

Biggest obstacle

Aside from desperately needing Liverpool to drop points, City's most obvious difficulty comes at Everton on May 3. Goodison Park has troubled City recently, and with Everton battling Arsenal for a Champions League position, both teams will be forced to push for the full three points. Considering Robinho and Stephen Ireland scored for City the last time they won a league game at Goodison, it won't be an easy task at all for Pellegrini's team as they look to win their second trophy of the season.

Remaining EPL fixtures

MCFC vs. Sunderland, April 16

MCFC vs. West Brom, April 21

Crystal Palace vs. MCFC, April 27

Everton vs. MCFC, May 3

MCFC vs. Aston Villa May 7

MCFC vs. West Ham May 11


Odds: Either 4/5 or 8/11, depending on the site

Liverpool's goal is far less complicated: if they keep winning, the Reds will lift their first league trophy since 1990. They enter the season's final weeks as clear favorites--because ten-match winning streaks tend give you that luxury. They also have the least remaining total fixtures (4) out of the contenders, and have only played three matches out of the league in 2014.

Liverpool avoid midweek games for the rest of the season, a comfort the other two cannot claim. They also possess an absolutely frightening--to say the least--attack of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge (if his hamstring is OK), Raheem Sterling, and Coutinho, all of whom are capable of flipping a game in a single moment.

They will, however, lose midfielder Jordan Henderson for three of the games because of his sending off on Sunday. Henderson has started every league game this season for Rodgers, and the manager must choose Gerrard's partner wisely with Chelsea and City chasing.

Make no mistake: Liverpool have a grab on the trophy the size of a Martin Skrtel shirt pull, but there's still four full matches of work left for Rodgers' men.

Biggest obstacle

Liverpool's last Premier League defeat came at Chelsea, and Mourinho's side poses the biggest threat to Liverpool's title hopes. The two teams meet at Anfield on April 27 in a game that matches Liverpool's prolific attack with Chelsea's league-best defensive record.

Liverpool's remaining EPL fixtures

Norwich City vs. Liverpool, April 20

Liverpool vs. Chelsea, April 27

Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool, May 5

Liverpool vs. Newcastle, May 11


Odds: 9/2

Despite Jose Mourinho's constant downplaying of Chelsea's title hopes, the "little horse" is only two points behind the leaders with the big date at Anfield still to come. Even a perfect finish for Chelsea might not be enough, though: if both Chelsea and City win their remaining games, Chelsea still finish one point out of first.

With a defense that's only given up 24 league goals thus far, Chelsea know they possess the defense to put themselves in position to win games even when their attack lags. But draws won't help them at this stage, so they'll need fully effective performances from the entire team, even if they don't have the same attacking flair as the other contenders. As Mourinho has demonstrated many times in his career, winning ugly counts exactly the same.

Biggest obstacle

Obviously, like Liverpool, the rest of Chelsea's season centers on the April 27 match at Anfield. For Chelsea, though, the match comes at an inopportune time, wedged between the two legs of their Champions League tie with Atlético Madrid. Playing at Anfield is tough enough on visitors; doing it five days after playing Atlético at the Calderón takes it to a entirely new level.

Chelsea's remaining EPL fixtures

Chelsea vs. Sunderland, April 19

Liverpool vs. Chelsea, April 27

Chelsea vs. Norwich City, May 4

Cardiff City vs. Chelsea, May 11

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