Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday means that the club have closed the gap to Manchester City to 13 points. For the leaders, who have lost just once, that means that it may take slightly longer before they are officially champions, with the Manchester derby on 7th April a possible date.
City can regain their 16-point lead on Monday night when they visit relegation-threatened Stoke City. A win at the Potters’ stadium would put them on an exceptional 81 points from 30 games, which is already more than they achieved in Pep Guardiola’s first Premier League campaign.
Though they lost to Basel in the second-leg of their last-16 Champions League tie, that was with a weakened side and they easily advanced. Before that City were on a brilliant three-match winning streak in which they beat Arsenal (twice) and Chelsea by scoring seven goals and without conceding. It would be a major surprise, then, if Guardiola’s squad do not get back to winning ways on Monday night before they fly to Abu Dhabi for some warm weather training.
Stoke are in trouble in 19th and relegation to the Championship is a real possibility; the Potters have been in the top-tier since 2008/09, becoming an established club in the Premier League, but this is the closest that they have come to a bottom three finish.
Paul Lambert was tasked with avoiding the drop after replacing Mark Hughes in January, but their form – with an expensively assembled squad – has not been good enough. Though they are unbeaten in five of their last six league fixtures, this has included just one win and a lack of goals (28 in 29 games) combined with a woeful defensive record – which has improved under Lambert – could be what condemns the club to the second-tier.
The odds for the hosts on Monday night are not pretty reading for the hosts. Tipbet have 100 markets and it is almost unheard of for a home team to be as high as 13.7 to win a match – such a result would see Stoke climb out of the bottom three. Fixtures don’t get any easier for the strugglers with games against Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur on the horizon.
Manchester City, at 1.22, are such strong favourites that even a draw (6.50) is rated as unlikely. There are plenty of other markets to bet on, including whether both sides will score.