Football Features

Who’s the Premier League’s ultimate ‘big game’ team right now?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 11:07, 2 March 2021

Manchester City are well on their way to winning their third Premier League title in four years.

Pep Guardiola’s men are currently 12 points clear of Manchester United at the summit having won 20 games in a row across all competitions. They are truly dominating their rivals, both in the table and on the pitch.

While some teams can maintain a lofty league position by beating small sides and just about getting by against the big boys (e.g. Manchester United), City are a fearsome force in big games. This season they have won 17 points from matches against their big six rivals – more than anyone else in that mini-league – with Liverpool next on 14 points.

Yes that’s right, despite their absolute disaster of a season Liverpool are still able to raise themselves for the big games; although not against Manchester City, having been soundly beaten 1-4 at Anfield. City’s dominance in the big games has been so impressive we were forced to ask; who are the most dominant big-game teams in England right now?

With the big six established as Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs (sorry Everton and Leicester) we’ve looked back over the last five seasons to see who has the best record against these illustrious opponents, including checking out the big six mini-leagues over that time as well. With City and Liverpool’s performances expressed, and the likes of Wolves and Leicester having reputations as giant killers, who will make up the top five from the last five years?

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Manchester United 2017/18

19 points

Win/Loss/Draw: 6/3/1
Goals Scored: 14
Conceded: 11

Thanks to a miracle season from David de Gea, Manchester United were prominent in 2017/18 as they finished second under José Mourinho. Powered by Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, The Red Devils finished the season in red-hot form, winning their final four games against big six opponents. That run included a memorable comeback win against champions-elect Man City, delaying their title coronation by a week.

Liverpool 2018/19

19 points

Win/Loss/Draw: 5/1/4
Goals Scored: 17
Conceded: 8

Liverpool were edged out in a nuclear arms race at the top of the Premier League, finishing second with a colossal 97 points. With Virgil van Dijk as the bedrock of their defence and the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané leading the line, the Reds were a formidable big-game force. In fact the only side they didn’t beat was Manchester City, who drew at Anfield (missing a penalty in the process) and won the reverse fixture at the Etihad in Liverpool’s only loss of the season.

Liverpool 2016/17

20 points

Win/Loss/Draw: 5/0/5
Goals Scored: 16
Conceded: 9

Lest you think that Jurgen Klopp’s big-game dominance is because of his stacked squad, we present Liverpool 2016/17. No Salah, no Van Dijk, no Alisson. That missing quality is why they only finished 4th, but they still gave the big sides hell, avoiding defeat in all 10 games against them. In fact in none of these big games were they ever even in major trouble, needing a last-minute goal to save them. This Liverpool side weren’t all that, but Klopp was just getting started. We should have known what was coming.

Liverpool 2019/20

22 points

Win/Loss/Draw: 7/2/1
Goals Scored: 20
Conceded: 14

The apex of Jurgen Klopp’s vision at Liverpool was the most dominant start to a Premier League season in the history of existence. For the first 27 games, only Manchester United were able to stop Liverpool from winning; a rare instance where they needed a late equaliser from Adam Lallana to save them from falling to Marcus Rashford’s opener. Liverpool’s lead at the top was so significant that they marched to the title despite returning from football’s hiatus without the same swagger, losing away to Manchester City and Arsenal. Still, this big-game dominance delivered their first title in 30 years, so they probably didn’t mind.

Manchester City 2017/18

24 points

Win/Loss/Draw: 8/2/0
Goals Scored: 27
Conceded: 11

Pep Guardiola’s second season in England saw all the jokes about him stop as Manchester City cut a swathe through, well, basically everyone. A 100-point season! They said it couldn’t done, but Pep did it and the foundation for that dominance was the way City handled themselves in the big games. Whether it was mangling Liverpool 5-0, Spurs 4-1 or Arsenal 0-3.

City scored a barely believable 27 goals in these big games and were only stopped from a clean sweep of all 10 fixtures by a fireworks show at Anfield and the aforementioned Man Utd comeback at the Etihad to delay their coronation (which they responded to by smashing Spurs at Wembley).

Interestingly enough, in a season when they were arguably the best team in Europe, they fell in the Champions League against big-six opponents as Liverpool slapped them 5-1 on aggregate. At home, however, this was rarefied air; even if City win both their remaining big games in 2020/21, they won’t reach 24 points.

Manchester City 2018/19

25 points

Win/Loss/Draw: 8/1/1
Goals Scored: 20
Conceded: 5

There can be only one winner, however. And it’s Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City again. Those men in sky blue followed up their monster 100-point season with a 98-point campaign where they again won eight of their 10 big games. They draw at Anfield, of course, when Riyad Mahrez blazed his penalty into the stratosphere.

City’s only defeat was Maurizio Sarri’s finest hour as Chelsea boss when Eden Hazard – at the peak of his powers – set up unlikely scorers N’Golo Kanté and David Luiz to down City. Pep’s men had the last laugh, however, utterly demolishing Chelsea 6-0 (yes, six!) at the Etihad later in the season. This should have been their year in Europe too as they were still the best around, but they blew it against a big-six rival yet again. Spurs marched on to a semi-final meeting with Ajax on away goals thanks to VAR ruling out what looked like a last-second City winner.

Still, when it comes to dominating the big six in the Premier League, Manchester City 2018/19 are the best there is.

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