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Arsenal, Liverpool fight to keep Premier League race alive

Bayern Munich’s Moroccan defender #40 Noussair Mazraoui (R) and Arsenal’s English midfielder #07 Bukayo Saka vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Arsenal FC in Munich, southern Germany on April 17, 2024. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal have no time to dwell on their Champions League exit as they return to Premier League action this weekend with the chance to reclaim top spot.

Manchester City were the big winners last week, hammering Luton 5-1 before Arsenal and Liverpool both lost, and are now firm favourites to claim an unprecedented fourth straight English top-flight title.

But City are in FA Cup semi-final action against Chelsea on Saturday and could find themselves shunted down to third spot.

At the bottom of the table, relegation-threatened Everton and Nottingham Forest, both hit with points deductions, go head to head.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points ahead of the weekend’s action.

Can Arsenal reset?

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal still have a “beautiful” opportunity in the title race, but their campaign is in danger of ending in a whimper for the second straight year.

The second-placed Gunners, who face mid-table Wolves on Saturday, led the way in the Premier League for the bulk of last season but faded badly in the run-in, allowing City to cruise past them.

They appeared to have toughened up this campaign, taking four points off both Liverpool and City and going on a run of 10 wins in 11 games.

But last week’s 2-0 home defeat by Aston Villa was a huge blow, compounded by their midweek Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich.

Arteta knows his men need an arm around their shoulders after their “painful” defeat in Germany.

“What we still have to play (for) is beautiful and as I said before, it’s time to be next to our players and at this moment, not when you win 10… and a draw,” he said.

Arsenal must beat Wolves – both to stay in the title hunt and to prove they have what it takes.

Liverpool’s Dutch defender #4 Virgil van Dijk (C-L) fights for the ball with Atalanta’s Dutch midfielder #7 Teun Koopmeiners (C-R) during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg football match between Atalanta BC and Liverpool FC at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia Stadium in Bergamo, on April 18, 2024. PHOTO: AFP

Klopp seeks cutting edge

Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League title push in his final season at Anfield is running out of momentum after a damaging draw against Manchester United and a shock defeat by Crystal Palace.

Liverpool had 49 shots over the two games but managed just two goals, in the chaotic 2-2 draw with United, telling a tale of wastefulness.

Liverpool had been the masters at winning points from losing positions but they have lost that useful knack, winning just two of their past five league games.

At the other end of the pitch, Klopp’s men, who have struggled with defensive injuries, are struggling to keep clean sheets.

Liverpool, City’s closest challengers during Pep Guardiola’s reign at the Etihad, are not out of the race – like Arsenal they are just two points off the top ahead of Sunday’s match against Fulham.

But unless they rediscover their sharpness at both ends of the pitch, their challenge could quickly be over.

Their mood would not have been improved by crashing out of the Europa League on Thursday.