Football

Current top 4 most dominant in English top-flight history

History is on the side of English Premier League leaders Liverpool as they chase a first league title since 1990, but their four-point lead over Manchester City after 21 games is the smallest margin between the top two in over a century.

The last 11 teams with the equivalent of 52 or more points at the same stage since 1905-06 went on to lift the title, but the strength of this year's top four means Liverpool on 54 points face an especially daunting task.

Sports data company Gracenote have recalculated seasons before the English top flight moved from two to three points for a win in 1981 and say the data reveals that the current top four is the most dominant ever, reported Reuters.

Liverpool, City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are separated by 10 points, and are on course to break the record cumulative tally of 333 points set by the top four in each of the last two seasons.

Of the 11 teams that won the league after leading at this stage since 1905-06, when 20 teams competed for the first time, many had sizeable leads unlike Liverpool's slender advantage this time around.

City, for instance, held a 14-point advantage over Chelsea at the same stage last year and are the first top-flight team to reach the 50-point mark after 21 games and not lead the table.

Meanwhile, Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk returned to training on Wednesday.

The Dutchman, a colossal figure at the back, missed their 2-1 defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup third round on Monday.

But he completed the full training session at Melwood on Wednesday, reported the Liverpool Echo, at a moment when Liverpool are short on centre-backs.

Dejan Lovren picked up a hamstring injury against Wolves, putting him on the sidelines along with central defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

Meanwhile, former Holland captain Arjen Robben has praised van Dijk, who took over the armband from him. Both players will meet in the Champions League last 16 next month.

"I do not know if he is the best defender in the world," Robben said at a recent press conference. "But I'm happy for him. He has made big strides lately."

Football