London: As the Premier League title race gathers pace, one of English football’s biggest derbies will play a key role in the mounting drama.
At the top, leaders Liverpool, one point ahead of Manchester City going into this weekend, make the short journey across Stanley Park to face Merseyside rivals Everton.
Georginio Wijnaldum insists Liverpool never lost belief in their ability to blow away opponents after reigniting their title bid ahead of their clash at Everton.
Questions were asked about Liverpool’s spluttering attack after four draws in five matches, including goalless stalemates with Manchester United and Bayern Munich, with suggestions they were cracking under the pressure of challenging for their first English crown since 1990.
But Jurgen Klopp’s side silenced the doubters with their biggest win in almost 12 months as Watford were demolished 5-0 at Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool remain one point clear of second-placed Manchester City and Reds midfielder Wijnaldum warned their rivals to expect more of the same.
“To be fair, I always have that feeling that it will click. The belief is always there. We just have to make sure that it does click,” he said.
Guardiola expects title twists
This time last season City were cruising towards a record-breaking Premier League title triumph that sucked all the drama out of the race.
But 12 months later, Pep Guardiola’s side are locked in a nail-biting sprint to the finish line with Liverpool and the City manager expects plenty more twists and turns before the trophy is lifted in May.
City travel to Bournemouth on Saturday knowing a victory would, temporarily, put them two points clear of Liverpool before the Reds take on Everton the next day.
Even a draw would put the champions top on goal difference, but Guardiola, whose team edged to a 1-0 win over West Ham in midweek, won’t be surprised if either City or Liverpool surrender points.
“We know with 10 games to go, many things are going to happen,” he said.
“I think we are going to drop points, Liverpool are going to drop points. So we are going to see, until the end.”
Siege mentality must lift Chelsea
Despite their vital victory over Tottenham, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea take on west London neighbours Fulham knowing a shock defeat would plunge them back into crisis.
Under-fire Sarri’s astonishing feud with Kepa Arrizabalaga during the League Cup final loss to Manchester City led the Blues goalkeeper to be dropped for the Tottenham clash.
Chelsea responded well to the turbulent few days as they produced one of their best performances of the season to give Sarri some breathing space.
The ray of sunshine could be banished if they lose against a Fulham side hoping the appointment of Scott Parker as caretaker replacement for the sacked Claudio Ranieri can spark a last-ditch bid to avoid relegation.