Footballing Weekly: Compelling duel between Man United, Liverpool begins

Both clubs are fighting for the coveted Champions League spot, and their fierce rivalry makes for an engrossing battle

Liverpool's Cody Gakpo (centre) tussles with Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez (left) and Raphael Varane.
Liverpool's Cody Gakpo (centre) tussles with Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez (left) and Raphael Varane. (PHOTO: Reuters/Carl Recine)

SINGAPORE — All of a sudden, the English Premier League has a new duel as it reaches the final weeks of the season. And it is arguably far more engrossing than the title chase between Manchester City and Arsenal.

We're talking about the race for the final Champions League spot between fourth-placed Manchester United and fifth-placed Liverpool.

It is a race that has captured the attention of fans of two of the best-supported clubs in the world, and with just three matches left to play, it is a high-stakes battle for both clubs as they seek to return to title-challenging form in the coming seasons.

Yet, a month ago, there was no race. Liverpool were mired in a transitional season, struggling to string victories, and looked far from being able to catch up with the top four clubs.

Man United, on the other hand, were comfortably hanging on to fourth spot under manager-of-the-year candidate Erik ten Hag, and could enjoy the boost of reaching the FA Cup final to contest for a trophy in the Dutch manager's first season.

All of a sudden, the fortunes of both clubs changed. Liverpool - revitalised by the return of several injury-hit stalwarts - embarked on a six-match winning run - their longest of the season - and leapt from eighth to fifth.

Man United, in contrast, started to stumble as they juggled with three competitions. They were bundled out of Europa League by Sevilla, then let slip a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Tottenham, then dropped two games in a row to Brighton and West Ham.

As it stands, Liverpool are now just a point behind United, with 62 points after 35 matches. The Red Devils, however, have played one game fewer in the league.

So while United still hold a clear advantage, their current form is a big worry for their fans, who would hate letting slip the Champions League spot to their fierce rivals. United's remaining fixtures - against Wolves, Bournemouth, Chelsea and Fulham - are also trickier than Liverpool's matches against Leicester, Aston Villa and Southampton.

So the race is on. Rarely have EPL fans had a straight-up duel between United and Liverpool, and so even neutral fans have sat up and taken an interest in the remaining weeks of the season - perhaps even more than the ongoing title race or the tense relegation battle.

Who would prevail? Check out the "Footballing Weekly" podcast show as the panel discuss the likely outcome.

Follow the new EPL season with all segments of this week's "Footballing Weekly" show on YouTube. If you wish the hear the show in its entirety, visit the show's Spotify and Acast pages.

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