Last season, for the first time this century, 76 Premier League points wouldn’t have been enough for a club to qualify for the Champions League.
Given Liverpool’s customary fine form in the second half of the season under Brendan Rodgers, 76 becomes significant as the predicted number of points last season’s silver medallists are on course to attain.
In 2012/13, Liverpool averaged 2.5 points per game from January to the close of the campaign, while this went up marginally to 2.53 points in the same period last season.
Somewhat surprisingly, Liverpool are gathering pace at the same rate in the second half of this season. From their eight top-flight matches in 2015 to date, the Reds have dropped just four points, which breaks down to 2.5 per game claimed.
Continuing at the same speed would hand Liverpool a further 28 points from their closing 11 matches of the season, despite the fact they still need to travel to Arsenal and Chelsea.
Although ambitious, there are ample reasons to believe that Liverpool are capable of ending the season with another nine wins.
Chiefly, their elimination from the Europa League means a potential seven games have been avoided, while the squad depth is better than last season, if not wholly in numbers, but certainly in terms of versatility.
Lazar Markovic is more than capable of starting in at least three roles in Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1 formation, while Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Emre Can are others that are adaptable in position.
Throw in that last season’s high tempo, pressing game has been restored, the necessary defensive protection has been found, Philippe Coutinho is finding an end product in his best position and Daniel Sturridge is raring to make up for lost time and any optimism around Anfield is certainly warranted.
A haul of 76 points would have resulted in a third-place finish in half of the last 12 seasons and it is a reasonably-generous 4/1 with bwin that Liverpool only drop one place from being runners up to Manchester City last May.
Logic would dictate that it will be Chelsea and Man City that will occupy the top two spots at the end of the season. However, don’t be surprised to see last season’s champions slip to fourth.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men may have only lost 2-1 to both Barcelona and Liverpool, but these results did slightly flatter them.
The Citizens’ desire to defend the edge of the box has got them in trouble more than once, the defenders lack protection and a general lack of speed throughout the side means that attacking build ups tend to be slow.
Pellegrini’s refusal to learn from past mistakes has been highlighted, with much that went wrong against Liverpool also previously making them second best when hosting Barcelona.
This is very similar to Arsene Wenger in previous seasons, who refused to give the opposition enough respect on the understanding that his team was the best and so didn’t need to be adaptable.
This was until Arsenal travelled to Man City earlier this season, set up in a more disciplined manner in midfield, were prepared to play second fiddle in the possession stakes and won the game.
City should brush aside the likes of Aston Villa, QPR and Leicester at the Etihad, but there are sufficient fixtures remaining where dropped points can be forecast.
The defensive solidarity of Southampton and West Brom may result in them taking points from the Etihad, while trips to Tottenham and Swansea are potential banana skins.
Adding another 21 points from their final 11 fixtures is far from a foregone conclusion. They have taken only 19 from their past 11 and this sequence included home matches against relegation-threatened trio Burnley, Hull and Sunderland.
This leaves the door open for Arsenal to finish second. Two seasons ago, the Gunners secured 26 points from their final 10 matches and last year won each of their last five. History shows an ability to end campaigns strongly.
Wenger’s men already have a three-point cushion on Liverpool, a +12 superior goal difference and what on paper looks a simpler run in.
As well as home advantage when facing the Reds, three of Arsenal’s other four remaining matches against opposition currently stationed in the top half of the Premier League standings will take place at the Emirates.
Wenger has challenged his team to reach 72 points, which he deems enough to finish in the top-four again. Expect the Gunners to better this tally by five or six points.
For those in agreement with these thoughts, it is 25/1 that the Premier League top four in the correct order is Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City.