Manchester United go into Sunday’s clash with bitter rivals Liverpool 13 points of Liverpool.
With five games remaining, avoiding defeat would guarantee that United will finish the 2020/21 season ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Regardless, it looks to be a near-certainty.
Even accounting for this crazy, condensed, behind closed doors season, that represents significant progress for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Now, United have the chance to deal a hammer blow to Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the Premier League’s top four, while tightening their own grip on second place.
As it stands
Liverpool are currently sixth, four points behind Chelsea in fourth place – with five games remaining.
The Blues host Fulham on Saturday in a local derby and will expect to collect all three points.
So by kick off at Old Trafford, Liverpool could be seven points adrift.
A repeat of the 3-2 loss in the FA Cup fourth round would leave Liverpool very much on the back foot to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Even if Liverpool lose on Sunday, their run-in when compared to Chelsea’s might just encourage them.
The Blues’ final four are against Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester and Aston Villa. There’s not a gimme amongst them there.
Perhaps City will rest players, with the game coming between the legs of their Champions League semi-final, Chelsea’s clash with Real Madrid is something Thomas Tuchel has to consider too.
Arsenal are prioritising Europe too and Villa have tailed off significantly – but it won’t be easy for Chelsea.
After United, Liverpool face Southampton, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace. All four are winnable on paper.
That said, the Reds toiled at home to Newcastle on Saturday and will have to play better than that to beat any of their remaining opponents.
West Ham are lingering and have kind fixtures too; facing Burnley this weekend before Everton, Brighton, West Brom and Southampton.
Can United kill Liverpool’s CL hopes?
Given that run-in, Klopp might fancy his side to get 12 points from 12 even if they lose to United, but confidence would be low and they look short on attacking ideas.
Will United go for the throat on Sunday? Second looks all but safe and Solskjaer may prioritise the Europa League semi-final against which bookends the Liverpool clash.
Solskjaer settled for a 0-0 at Anfield in January and might view that as a decent result again here.
But United exploited Liverpool’s defensive frailties in that thrilling FA Cup clash and are the side with the better form and confidence.
United have made decent strides in outstripping Liverpool this season and putting a nail into their Champions League hopes for next term would be an added bonus.
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