How Much Will Tiredness Affect the Premier League Title Race?
The Premier League title race is going to be decided by fine margins this season, as the battle reaches boiling point.
Liverpool and Man City have been at loggerheads throughout the campaign, which for the neutrals watching on must have made for a thrilling spectacle.
Both sides are churning out points at rapid rates and the eventual victor is likely to have to achieve close to 100 points to secure glory.
With the painfully dull international break now out of the way, focus returns to the title battle, ahead of another key weekend of action.
City would have to be heading to struggling Fulham, wouldn’t they? Haven’t they played them 14 times already this season?
Liverpool didn’t find it easy at Craven Cottage last time around, in fairness, but even the most optimistic Reds supporter will struggle to look at that fixture and see anything other than an easy away win.
Meanwhile, Liverpool host Tottenham on Sunday, in what represents their toughest remaining fixture, assuming Eden Hazard doesn’t turn into Lionel Messi again when Chelsea visit Anfield next month.
It starts a relentless run of matches for the two challengers, both domestically and in Europe.
Aside from the obvious fact that Liverpool are a fantastic team who are good enough to win this title, the main thing potentially working in their favour is tiredness setting in for City.
The reigning champions could face as many as 14 games in the space of 43 days between travelling to Fulham and heading to Brighton on the final day of the season.
That is assuming they reach both the FA Cup and Champions League final – something that is more than plausible – with their remaining eight league fixtures thrown in, too. The Champions League final is not until June 1st.
That’s an average of a game every 3.07 days, which is so brutal that it could even take its toll on a squad as littered with world-class quality and depth as City’s.
As Simon Brundish pointed out on the latest episode of Fatigue Index, only two of those 14 matches will take place having been given the luxury of full rest, with the body normally recovering completely on the fourth day after playing.
Not only will that be taxing on the legs and demanding of Pep Guardiola’s rotation expertise, but it will also deprive City of valuable time on the training ground.
The intensity that will be required in some of these fixtures must also be taken into account, most notably three meetings with Spurs in the space of 10 days.
City are going to have to grind it out like never before to retain their crown – if they do it, you have to take your hat off to them, be that begrudgingly or not.
While the thought of City winning an unprecedented quadruple is not a pleasant one, Liverpool fans should be wanting them to stay in as many competitions as possible deep into the campaign, in order to aid their own title chances.
The Reds’ schedule is far from straightforward, however, and their smaller squad will be tested to the hilt.
Klopp’s men might have to play 11 games in 42 days, depending on how they fare in the Champions League, starting with the Spurs clash.
That’s an average of a match every 3.81 days, which highlights that little bit of extra rest that they could be afforded, potentially making a big difference.
At least six of those games will be played after a full rest, which is another major plus point.
While all of this sounds positive, generally working in Liverpool’s favour, Brundish also discussed the amount of legs City still have in the tank.
Their ability to control more matches than Liverpool, particularly since Christmas, has allowed them to preserve energy better, and the depth at their disposal means key players have not been run into the ground.
Not a single City player will outdo their greatest workload for a season during their career, which makes for very different reading with the Reds.
As many as seven individuals are on course to break their own personal records: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Asking that of such a key group of players is enormous – it does show that Klopp has been largely fortunate with injuries, however – and if Liverpool do get over the finish line, numerous individuals will be on their last legs come May 12th.
There is also the curious case of the warm weather training camp that took place in Marbella back in February, which supporters are still waiting to see the benefits of.
Klopp has suggested that the good it did to his players will only fully shine through in April and May, so now is the time to see the Reds look fitter than any other team in the country, starting on Sunday.
If the performances remain unconvincing and lack the verve on show before Christmas, you have to wonder what the point in it was, with results suffering straight after flying home, and rhythm arguably reduced.
It would be a surprise if they didn’t look a little fresher than City, though, especially as that crunch periods in and around the Champions League quarter-finals take place.
In true Liverpool fashion, they find themselves not only up against an all-time great English side in terms of ability, but also one of the best prepared to deal with fatigue.
City’s fitness levels and ability to rotate will be called upon more than ever in the next two months and Liverpool need to be waiting in the wings ready to exploit any slip-up.
Their own physical and mental expertise will be tested, of course, but they do look to have a little bit of an advantage in that respect.
Listen to Fatigue Index in full HERE.