Where could Pep Guardiola's Manchester City drop points between now and the end of the season?

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It may be the New Year but some things just stay the same. It’s yet another winter and Manchester City have a commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

The first weekend of 2022 couldn’t have gone any better for Pep Guardiola. City showed their title credentials by scoring a late winner at Arsenal when they weren’t playing well, before watching Chelsea and Liverpool both drop points on Sunday. 

Guardiola’s City don’t tend to give up commanding leads like these at the top of the table, but this season has been so bizarre that anything can happen. 

Manchester City are acting like Premier League champions and have a 10-point lead at the top

Manchester City are acting like Premier League champions and have a 10-point lead at the top

Sportsmail analyses where Pep Guardiola's side could drop points between now and May

Sportsmail analyses where Pep Guardiola’s side could drop points between now and May

So is there any hope for Chelsea and Liverpool, who have stumbled during the festive period and are set to lose key players to the Africa Cup of Nations this month?

Sportsmail picks out matches where City could drop points between now and the end of the season, thereby opening the door for their title rivals once again…

MANCHESTER CITY VS CHELSEA – January 15

After beating Arsenal at the Emirates thanks to Rodri’s late winner, City’s next Premier League clash is arguably their toughest contest between now and the end of the season. 

Guardiola’s side really struggled against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea last season, losing three times to the Blues towards the back end of the campaign – with all of them being must-win games for City. 

City's next league game is a clash with title rivals Chelsea who they have struggled against

City’s next league game is a clash with title rivals Chelsea who they have struggled against

The current league leaders lost to the Blues in the FA Cup semi-final, the Champions League final – while they also lost 2-1 to the west Londoners in the game where they needed just a point to seal the title. 

Guardiola himself was clearly affected by what Tuchel can bring on the pitch and was accused of overthinking his line-up for the league defeat to delay the title procession – where he resorted to a back three – plus the Champions League final loss where he used no defensive midfielder or strikers. 

City showed how much they have improved this season by convincingly beating Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September, so the league leaders should still be favourites for this one?

Chelsea beat City in the Champions League final, FA Cup semi-final and in the league in 2021

Chelsea beat City in the Champions League final, FA Cup semi-final and in the league in 2021

But Chelsea may come out all guns blazing at the Etihad later this month in what will surely be their last chance to stay in the title race. 

Will Romelu Lukaku be back and in the goals? How will Chelsea deal without Edouard Mendy? Will Chelsea have fixed their injury crisis? There are too many question marks to call this one for sure. 

MANCHESTER CITY VS TOTTENHAM – February 19

Another London challenge in Tottenham will come to the Etihad Stadium a month later – and Antonio Conte certainly has what it takes to beat City. 

The Italian manager did the double over Guardiola’s City in his first season at Chelsea – including a 3-1 win at the Etihad which took the Blues to the 2016-17 title – so can he repeat the feat with Spurs?  

Antonio Conte managed to do the double over Guardiola's City in his first season at Chelsea

Antonio Conte managed to do the double over Guardiola’s City in his first season at Chelsea

Even Nuno Espirito Santo managed a win over Guardiola’s team earlier this season before his sacking – Spurs just tend to find an edge, somehow, when they take on City.

And Tottenham are certainly improving under Conte, with Harry Kane and Lucas Moura both improving in attack, while Son Heung-Min is carrying on his good form from earlier in the campaign. 

The Tottenham clash comes after City’s trip to Portugal for their Champions League last-16 clash with Sporting Lisbon – just what type of team will Guardiola put out after their European exploits in midweek? 

Tottenham have already beaten City in the league this season - can they repeat that feat?

Tottenham have already beaten City in the league this season – can they repeat that feat?

Spurs, meanwhile, are expected to be right in the thick of a top-four battle by the time they go to the Etihad next month – and with Liverpool and Chelsea taking on Norwich and Crystal Palace respectively earlier in the day, February 19 could be an important day.

MANCHESTER CITY VS MANCHESTER UNITED – March 5

Manchester United are the definition of Forrest Gump’s ‘box of chocolates’ – you have no idea what you’re going to get with the Red Devils.

But one area of consistency that United have managed in recent years is a good record at the Etihad Stadium. The red half of Manchester have came away with victories in each of their last three visits to the home of their arch-rivals. 

For some reason, City tend to lose their discipline when United come to town – Guardiola’s side have conceded penalties in their last two Manchester derbies, with their rivals’ speedy players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial enjoying great success at the Etihad in recent years. 

Man United have won their last three matches at the Etihad Stadium and will be confident

Man United have won their last three matches at the Etihad Stadium and will be confident

City may be well on course to the Premier League title by the beginning of March but they will be coming up against the team that wants to spoil any potential party more than anyone. 

It will also be Ralf Rangnick’s first chance to take on Guardiola in Manchester, and the interim will be desperate to get a derby victory under his belt to boost his chances of staying on next season.

MANCHESTER CITY VS LIVERPOOL – April 9

April actually represents quite a tricky month for City if previous years’ results are anything to go by – starting with the final Premier League title showdown of the season.

Should City make it through to the Champions League quarter-finals, then their first leg will take place just days before Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool come to town – who could be involved in that round themselves. 

City will get a reunion with Liverpool and Mo Salah (right) at the start of a tricky April for them

City will get a reunion with Liverpool and Mo Salah (right) at the start of a tricky April for them

Guardiola seems to have found a formula to keep the Reds at bay. After struggling against Liverpool a few years ago – which saw them fail to beat their Merseyside rivals in four 2018 meetings – City have just once in their last eight outings against Klopp’s men. 

But Liverpool will be boosted by having Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane back from AFCON duty by then – with the pair determined to haul their team back into the title race. 

The whole of England will stop to watch this one, so can Liverpool get close enough to City by the start of April to make this a proper title showdown? 

WOLVES VS MANCHESTER CITY – April 16 

There’s something about Molineux that Manchester City do not like. 

Guardiola’s side have only won one of their last there and while that sole victory was their most recent visit there, Wolves know how to pose City problems. 

The most notable City visits to the Midlands club include Aymeric Laporte rescuing a 1-1 draw in 2018, before Wolves claimed a 3-2 win over the current league leaders a year later, after Ederson had been sent off early on. 

City have struggled away at Wolves  and the Midlands side gave them problems this term

City have struggled away at Wolves  and the Midlands side gave them problems this term

Even this season, Wolves have continued to be a thorn in City’s winning streak. Bruno Lage’s side frustrated Guardiola’s men at the Etihad earlier this season, with the champions’ winner coming from Raheem Sterling’s second-half penalty.

If City are still involved in Europe and endure a setback against Liverpool in the week before, then Wolves can take advantage of any dropped or tired heads.  

LEEDS VS MANCHESTER CITY – April 30 

In late April last season, Manchester City took a break from Premier League duty to play in the Carabao Cup final against Spurs. As the blue half of Manchester prepared for the Wembley tie, rivals United drew 0-0 to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds at Elland Road. 

Guardiola went to a camera and shouted: ‘Marcelo! The Premier League is the best. The Premier League is the best!’ 

City also dropped points at Marcelo Bielsa's (right) Leeds last season in a thrilling 1-1 draw

City also dropped points at Marcelo Bielsa’s (right) Leeds last season in a thrilling 1-1 draw

What it ultimately proves is that Leeds know how to upset the applecart when it comes to the Premier League title race. This time, it will be City who will travel to Bielsa’s Leeds this spring hoping to wrap up the top-flight title, if they haven’t already.

City know how dangerous Leeds can be at Elland Road. Guardiola’s side drew 1-1 with the Whites last season in a shocking, but entertaining match. 

Bielsa’s side avoided defeat to last year’s champions and won 2-1 at the Etihad as well, so City should expect another tough tie here.  

WEST HAM VS MANCHESTER CITY – May 15

At the moment, it is fully expected that City will have sealed the Premier League title by the time they go to West Ham for their final away game of the season. 

But if they have not wrapped up the league due to setbacks in the aforementioned games, then there will not be a more difficult tie than a trip to play David Moyes’ team. 

City have failed to win in their last two trips to east London, which included a shock Carabao Cup exit on penalties to the Hammers earlier this season. 

West Ham will also be competing for a European spot by the end of May – possibly even a Champions League place – so they will be wanting to end their season in style at the London Stadium. 

Will City have won the title before they face West Ham in the penultimate game of the season?

Will City have won the title before they face West Ham in the penultimate game of the season?

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