Football

Premier League title race still wide open due to Liverpool’s difficult December

Following Liverpool’s Premier League win over Manchester City last Sunday, high-paid pundits such as Jose Mourinho claimed the title race was done and dusted. It seemed that Mourinho and others forgot that Liverpool will be jetting off to Qatar in a few weeks’ time and will play nine matches during the course of December.

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It was also overlooked post-Manchester City win that the Reds are just eight points ahead of Leicester City and Chelsea, two teams Liverpool have already beaten. Liverpool will face off against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day giving Brendan Rodgers’ team the chance to play Liverpool during their busiest and most vulnerable time period.

If Liverpool lose the title, it will be due to the number of fixtures they must play in December. The Reds have the chance to win the FIFA Club World Cup, a glorified friendly that means little in the grand scheme of things. Of course, winning trophies is the club’s objective but not when such a minor piece of silverware causes ramifications in Liverpool achieving their ultimate goal.

Liverpool will kick off their FIFA Club World Cup campaign in the tournament’s semifinals on the 18th of December against Qatar’s Al Sadd, New Caldonia’s Hienghene Sport, or Mexico’s Monterrey. A win would send the Reds into the final while a loss would see Liverpool forced to play a third-place playoff game on the 21st of December.

The Reds will return to Merseyside before heading to Leicester City for a potentially huge match on Boxing Day. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United will follow in the ensuing days. There is also the matter of Liverpool’s 21st of December league match against West Ham being re-scheduled.

As it stands, the Reds are on pace to play 48 matches this season. That doesn’t take into account any FA Cup matches, the FIFA Club World Cup, progression in the Carabao Cup, or progression to the Champions League knockout stage. At the very minimum, Liverpool will play 51 matches this season.

December’s cluttered fixture list means there is no guarantee Liverpool will be in first place in the Premier League come January. While they are the best team in the Premier League, the fatigue of playing every three days in December could nullify their superiority in matches.

Injuries could also play a part in Liverpool’s December. Mohamed Salah is sitting out the international break with an ankle injury. The initial injury occurred thanks to a cynical tackle by Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury. Salah is a doubt for Liverpool’s next match against Crystal Palace due to the issue. Luckily for Liverpool, Salah was ruled out of Egypt’s international fixtures.

Left-back Andy Robertson is also suffering from an ankle injury and withdrew from Scotland’s international matches. Robertson is Liverpool’s only first-team left-back. According to the Echo, Robertson hasn’t trained in two weeks.

If there is one thing December’s fixture congestion may force Liverpool to do, is tap into the transfer market to add to the squad. That is simply speculation, however.