Man City’s derby victory over Manchester United on Wednesday night saw them leapfrog Liverpool at the top of the tableonce again, but the Reds will be firm favourites to return to the summit against a Huddersfield side in dire form.
Man City landed arguably the heaviest blow of the title race so far without Liverpool even kicking a ball in midweek as they overcame what many considered to be their toughest remaining test by beating local rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.
In doing so, the champions ensured that they retain control of the title race, and Liverpool must now hope that Pep Guardiola‘s side drop points against either Burnley, Leicester City or Brighton & Hove Albion in the final three games of the season.
For their part, the Reds can only continue to put pressure on Man City at this stage and beating Huddersfield on Friday would lift them back to the top of the Premier League table for a record 29th change of leadership – which could then become 30 when City visit Turf Moor on Sunday.
There is not much more Liverpool could have done in what has been a title race of the highest quality, and Guardiola acknowledged that when admitting that both sides deserve to lift the trophy this season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have already surpassed their previous record points tally in the Premier League era, and a 10th successive win across all competitions would see them past the 90-point mark. When adjusted to three points for a win, only once in their illustrious history have Liverpool ever managed more than that – accruing the equivalent of 98 in 1978-79.
The Merseysiders have therefore won 17 league titles with a lower points tally than they would have if they win on Friday, which goes to show just how impressive this season’s race has been. Indeed, Liverpool could end the campaign on 97 points but still miss out on the title.
Klopp’s side have been beaten just once in the league all season – away to Man City in January – and are undefeated in 14 since then, winning each of the last six in a row since the goalless draw with Everton which ultimately handed Man City an advantage that they have not yet yielded.
Newcastle United are the only remaining team to face away from home this season, with Anfield outings to come against Huddersfield and Wolverhampton Wanderers off the back of a 38-game unbeaten league streak in front of their own fans – the second-longest such run in Premier League history.
There is also the small matter of a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona interspersed between those final domestic throes, and perhaps the biggest challenge on Friday will be preventing the players’ focus from drifting to next Wednesday’s first leg at the Camp Nou.
It may be that the Champions League is now their best chance of a first trophy under Klopp as they attempt to reach the final for a second year in succession, but the Premier League is the one they really want and they look determined to push Man City all the way on that front.
Recent Premier League form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW
Whereas Liverpool’s season could live long in the memory depending on what happens over the next three weeks, Huddersfield fans will want to forget this campaign as quickly as possible.
The Terriers have avoided the ignominy of rivalling Derby County for the lowest points tally in the division’s history, but they are right in the discussion for the worst season in the Premier League era.
Jan Siewert has been unable to stop the slide which began under David Wagner, losing 11 of his 12 matches in charge of the club since his January appointment – including an ongoing run of seven in a row.
Incredibly, half of Huddersfield’s 14 points this season came in the month of November, since when they have lost 21 of 23 games across all competitions and picked up only four more points from 66 on offer in the top flight.
Only two teams in Premier League history have scored fewer goals after 35 games of a Premier League campaign than Huddersfield’s measly tally of 20 this term, while only Derby in 2007-08 have had fewer points.
A record-equalling 14 of their defeats have come on home turf, and unsurprisingly the news is not much better on the road, where the Terriers are winless in their last 12 games and have picked up just one point from their last 11 in the league.
Indeed, Town have failed to even score in eight of their nine away games since Boxing Day and are currently on a run of six successive defeats on their travels.
Safe to say, then, that any sort of result at Anfield would rank among the biggest shocks of the season, and while Siewert has urged his side to enjoy their last weeks in the Premier League, the brutal truth is that Friday’s visitors have simply not been good enough to compete at this level.
Huddersfield do not exactly have an easy end to life as a top-flight team either with Liverpool and Manchester United in their next two games, before concluding their Premier League journey away to Southampton.
Based on what we have seen this season, it could be some time before they return to this level.
Recent Premier League form: LLLLLL
Indeed, Klopp may take the opportunity to rest a number of players ahead of next week’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, including the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, the latter of whom has scored nine goals in his last eight home league games.
Joe Gomez could be handed his first start since December as he continues his recovery from injury, while Dejan Lovren is expected to have overcome the illness which has ruled him out of the last two games.
The likes of James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi will be hopeful of benefiting from the probably rotation, while other fringe players such as Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno could also have a chance of featuring.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, will assess Jonathan Hogg after he was forced off before half time against Watford last weekend.
Both Adama Diakhaby and Laurent Depoitre have outside chances of returning from injuries in time for this match, although Karlan Grant is expected to lead the line following his goalscoring cameo last time out.
Grant has now scored four goals since his January arrival – during which time no other Huddersfield player has scored more than once – but he has ended up on the losing side in all three of the games in which he has notched.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita; Origi, Firmino, Shaqiri
Huddersfield possible starting lineup:
Lossl; Smith, Schindler, Kongolo, Durm; Kachunga, Bacuna, Pritchard, Lowe; Mooy; Grant
Head To Head
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 13 meetings with Huddersfield across all competitions, winning 10 of those in a run which stretches back 60 years to November 1959.
Indeed, the Terriers have not even scored against the Reds since April 1962 – an eight-game run which includes the 1-0 Liverpool win in October’s reverse fixture, when Salah scored the only goal of the game.
Liverpool’s triumph over Cardiff last weekend means that the top six teams have won all 33 of their Premier League matches versus the current bottom three teams in the table this season – a top-flight record.
We say: Liverpool 4-0 Huddersfield
Liverpool may have been in trouble if this was a more difficult game after the psychological blow Man City dealt them in midweek, but this is an ideal fixture for them respond. Huddersfield have been dreadful this season and everything points at a convincing Liverpool win in front of their own fans.
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