Liverpool were undoubtedly the biggest winners in the race for the Premier League title at the weekend. Chelsea losing at Crystal Palace and the spoils being shared between Arsenal and Manchester City ensured the Reds could move top of the table on Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers' side capitalised in impressive fashion, romping to a 4-0 win over Tottenham to condemn the North London side to their third consecutive away league defeat. In the process, Liverpool extended their winning run to 8 matches, the longest streak of its kind in Europe's top 5 leagues.
As things stands, only 4 points separate the Merseysiders, Chelsea and City as the title race heads into the final stretch. There are those that believe City, due to the 2 games in hand they hold over their rivals, have the upper hand, but with Chelsea and the Citizens still to travel to Anfield, Liverpool would secure their first top-flight title since 1990 if they were to win their remaining 6 league games.
Many feel it would be deserved for the Reds on reflection. Liverpool have netted the most goals (88) and are on course to better Chelsea's return from the 2009/10 season (103). The strike partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez has contributed significantly to this, with the duo netting 55.7% (49) of the team's total league goals this term.
It goes without saying that the exploits of the 'SAS' will be a defining factor in whether they win the title or not, though that isn't to say the rest of the team aren't pulling their weight. Steven Gerrard in particular is enjoying one of his finest campaigns in recent memory and that's echoed in his WhoScored rating (7.7); only Suárez (8.62) is performing better of every Reds player.
The club captain has been operating in a deeper role this season and alongside Jordan Henderson, has regularly orchestrated their attacks with ease. Though they're averaging less possession this campaign (54.6%) than last (57.2%), the passing ability of Gerrard means Liverpool have maximised their time on the ball, with the England international registering 9 assists - only Suárez (11), Wayne Rooney and Rickie Lambert (both 10) have more.
Liverpool are also averaging the most tackles per game (22.5) in England's top tier, highlighting the fighting spirit that any team must boast in pursuit of their respective goal. From an offensive perspective, the table toppers are averaging the most shots on target (6.8) and dribbles (12.7) per match, emphasising the fluid attack that has helped them rise to the summit of England's top tier.
Nevertheless, it's their battling approach that perhaps stands them in higher stead than Chelsea and City, with the duo respectively averaging 19.6 and 19.8 tackles per match.
Chelsea's title surge has slowed in recent weeks following back-to-back away defeats to Aston Villa and Palace. Though the 6-0 thumping of Arsenal bolstered their credentials, the Blues' poor form on the road of late leaves their quest to finish first in doubt.
José Mourinho has regularly talked down his side's title aspirations, but the Blues were unquestionably one of the early favourites this campaign. The performances of Belgian Eden Hazard have helped them to their lofty position, with the winger directly contributing to 33.9% of Chelsea's this season.
Hazard is currently their highest rated player (7.72) and is undeniably enjoying a fine season under Mourinho. The trickery and creativity of the 23-year-old has seen him emerge among the favourites to land the PFA Player of the Year award, with perhaps only Suárez ahead of him in the running for the accolade.
The youngster has executed the most key passes (87) and completed the most successful dribbles (121) in the Premier League this season and these facets of his game will be crucial if the Blues are to secure top spot come May. Hazard's ability on the ball goes hand in hand with Chelsea's strength of 'counter attacks' and it's little shock that only league top scorers Liverpool (8) have netted more goals as a result of a counter attack than Chelsea (4) this term.
The Blues may have conceded more goals (24) this season than they did in Mourinho's debut campaign (15), but the experience of the Portuguese, coupled with the quality running through the squad means they shouldn't be ruled out of the title race, regardless of Saturday's defeat.
Like Chelsea, City also dropped points at the weekend, though many are of the opinion that the onus is on the Citizens to secure domestic glory, even if head coach Manuel Pellegrini says otherwise.
After a poor start to the campaign away from home, where they lost 4 of their opening 6 league encounters, Cityhave vastly improved on the road, picking up 24 of the last 30 points available, which bodes well for their remaining away fixtures. While the draw with Arsenal wasn't ideal, Pellegrini's side still have 2 games in hand over their title rivals, both of which are at home, where they have lost just the once.
The goals perhaps haven't been coming as freely as they were earlier in the season, but City are still averaging the most shots per match (17.7) in the Premier League and with 80 goals to their name, the attacking side of their game continues to impress. Furthermore, only Swansea (86.1%) have a better pass success than the Citizens (85.9%) with the possession based gameplan Pellegrini has instilled evidently working in their favour.
With Sergio Agüero's impending return in mind, the Argentine's availability will come at the perfect time for City in the next 8 matches. Should he and Álvaro Negredo rekindle their strike partnership between now and the end of the season, supporters will be confident that the strikers can fire the club to the title.
Both Chelsea and City travel to Anfield before the campaign comes to an end and both fixtures will play a defining role in where the title ends up. Either one of the current top 3 could be argued as deserving of sitting atop England's top tier when the season draws to a close, and more twists and turns are to be expected before May 11th.
All statistics courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com where you can find yet more stats and player ratingsSuggest a correction