It’s fair to say that Manchester City and their supporters do not have the easiest of relationships with UEFA, European football’s governing body.
Whether it be banning City fans at short notice for an away game at CSKA Moscow, failing to adequately deal with racist abuse suffered by City players or seemingly going after City over alleged Financial Fair Play breaches while letting other clubs off scot-free, UEFA have always found a way of rubbing City up the wrong way.
That ill feeling is unlikely to change any time soon. However, UEFA may have done City a favor as they look to fend off Liverpool’s title challenge and win a fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
The Premier League does not return from its winter break until next week, with the FA Cup fourth round taking precedence this weekend. However, when it does, City will find themselves in a potentially advantageous situation.
City and Liverpool will both play four league games in February, with City’s first match a home fixture against Brentford on February 9.
Due to the way the Champions League round of 16 has been scheduled, three of City’s four league games this month will take place before Jurgen Klopp’s side play.
City are currently nine points clear at the top of the table, so this could allow them to throw down the gauntlet and earn a psychological advantage in the title race.
Liverpool will face Leicester 24 hours after City’s meeting with Brentford, with the same thing happening a few days later. City will travel to Norwich for a 17:30 kick-off on February 12 before Liverpool face Burnley the next day.
The weekend after both sides play in the Champions League – City travel to Lisbon to face Sporting CP on Tuesday while Liverpool face Inter Milan the following evening – the pattern changes, with the Reds facing Norwich in a 15:00 Saturday kick-off before City face Tottenham at 17:30.
Klopp’s side will have a chance to make up some ground when they play their re-scheduled clash with Leeds United on February 23, but the following weekend City will again play before them, the Blues facing Everton the day before Liverpool come up against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final.
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While this scheduling quirk is beyond the control of both clubs and the Premier League to a large extent, City will no doubt enjoy being able to fully focus on their own performances, without thinking about what Liverpool are doing.
Liverpool on the other hand will be under pressure to respond to every City match, whatever the outcome.
Small margins can make all the difference in a title race; maybe UEFA have inadvertently created one.
Does playing before Liverpool give City the upper hand in the title race? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.