Like Man City the day before, Liverpool couldn't summon a three-point effort in its midweek fixture, and while its draw vs. Leicester City wasn't catastrophic, it does keep Pep Guardiola's side within reasonable striking range in the race for the title.
Call it the Midweek of Missed Opportunity.
The Tuesday-Wednesday fixtures of Matchday 24 in the Premier League had the chance to be pivotal for the two sides realistically still alive in the hunt for the title. Instead, neither could cash in, and the door has opened for a third team to at least make things interesting.
Man City dropped points in a shocking loss to Newcastle but remains within a two-match striking distance of Liverpool, after the Reds failed to secure the three points at home against a Leicester City side that had previously won just one of its last five in all competitions. The 1-1 draw at Anfield extends the margin to five points, instead of seven. Given that means Man City needs Liverpool to effectively lose twice instead of three times going forward in order to reclaim first place, that is massive when you consider how dominant both have been on the whole of the season.
Like Man City the day before, Liverpool raced out to an early lead, only to be unable to add to it while allowing the opposition to stick around. And like Man City the day before, when Kevin de Bruyne was whistled and carded for taking a free kick too quickly and had a goal taken off the board, Liverpool had some gripes with the officiating. Moments before Harry Maguire scored the equalizer for Leicester in first-half stoppage time, he could've been sent off for a tackle on Sadio Mane. In the second half, Naby Keita appeared to be fouled in the box, but referee Martin Atkinson swallowed the whistle. Despite waves of pressure down the stretch, Leicester didn't wilt and instead did Man City a huge solid by limiting the ramifications of Tuesday's defeat. It marked just the fifth time Liverpool failed to win all season, and just the second time it failed to win at home–the other a 0-0 draw vs. Man City back in October. Jurgen Klopp, naturally, had an optimistic spin on the events of the day.
"I don’t see it like this, that we dropped points," Klopp said. "We take what we get–tonight it’s a point, and that’s more than we had before the game, so that’s fine. Am I overly happy? No, of course not, we wanted to win the game, but we knew before it would be really difficult."
The rarity of both Liverpool and Man City both dropping points allowed Tottenham–an injury-riddled, patchwork and transfer-averse Tottenham–to creep somewhat back into the race. Son Heung-min's return from the Asian Cup couldn't have come sooner for Mauricio Pochettino's side, and his equalizer brought Spurs back from a 1-0 deficit to Watford. The much-maligned Fernando Llorente scored the winner late on, and Tottenham is still lurking, just seven points out of first and a full seven points clear of fourth.
The theme of missed opportunity trickled lower down the table into the race for the top four, too. Man United failed to win for the first time in nine matches in all competitions under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, requiring a furious comeback from two goals down just to salvage a home draw against Burnley. That dropping of two points was made to look even worse when Chelsea, welcoming Gonzalo Higuain to its starting lineup for the first time, was flat and sloppy at Bournemouth, falling 4-0–a result that could wreak havoc in the goal differential department should a tiebreaker be required later in the season. Instead of being a three-team tie for fourth, United remains behind the Blues and Arsenal, and it's the Gunners who sit in fourth thanks to a second tiebreaker as things stand.
There are no playoffs in the Premier League, but that doesn't mean season fortunes don't come down to a select few performances. The margins are fine, more so this year when it comes to a multi-team race at the top, and a three-team race for fourth. Any opportunity not taken has the chance to be punished later on, and depending on how things break from here, an otherwise inconspicuous set of midweek fixtures could wind up playing a big role come title time.