Whatever happens this week, fans of Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool should probably dial down any big predictions of lifting the Premier League.
All three clubs could end the weekend top of the table, with City holding the far easier fixture list as United travel to Liverpool on Sunday.
If United beat Burnley tonight, they will go three points clear of Liverpool having played the same amount of games – and two more than City ahead of the Blues’ home fixture against an injury-hit Brighton side on Wednesday.
Liverpool will top the table again by beating United, while City’s chances of going top are reliant on taking maximum points against Brighton and Crystal Palace, and the teams above them dropping points themselves.
Top spot will be the last thing on Pep Guardiola’s mind, with professional performances and no errors the objective to ensure City make the most of their favourable fixture list over the next three weeks.
However, there will certainly be a few of sky blue persuasion with eyes on Anfield on Saturday.
Regardless of United’s result against Burnley, the showdown at Liverpool will define both sides’ title chances.
The bookmakers have moved City into slight favourites to win the league, with champions Liverpool not far behind.
United, though, are still at six or seven to one. They’ve been better this season, but are still prone to a slip-up like they showed against Tottenham, PSG, RB Leipzig and City when it mattered. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the master of the big occasion, but less so this season.
Even with their extensive injury problems, Liverpool are the team to beat. And when their big hitters come back, especially in defence, they will be a formidable opponent. So City need to take advantage of any slip-up from Jurgen Klopp’s men, and their next four fixtures will give them hope of gaining more ground on the champions.
After United, Liverpool should beat Burnley at home, and while the FA Cup trip to United won’t affect the league standings, it will mean Klopp can’t make too many changes ahead of a difficult double trip to London against Tottenham and then West Ham.
City, on the other hand, play five of the bottom seven, plus Aston Villa, in their next six games before travelling to Liverpool themselves. Guardiola knows that taking advantage of any slip-up from Liverpool is far more important than what United do.
So when United take on Liverpool, City know a better result for them is a United win or draw, even if Solskjaer’s men might be top of the league as a result.
United, you would feel, can easily be reeled back in. Liverpool have experience of pulling away further, so City would much prefer to be catching their red rivals of Manchester over Merseyside.