Man City lead MOTD running with surprise team in top four

Matt Stead

The enforced shift from MOTD weekly highlights leaves Manchester City with top billing for the season so far.

After Mrs Brown’s Boys filled the void last week, the flagship show returns to the BBC One schedule this Saturday evening – but in the form of a “Top 10 Premier League captains” podcast.

An inspection of this season’s MOTD running orders suggests football fans could instead have expected to be watching highlights of City’s clash with Chelsea at 10.20pm, as Pep Guardiola’s men edge out Liverpool for the most headline appearances.

Despite Liverpool’s 25-point lead in the table, City have opened MOTD on eight occasions to their rivals’ seven.

Their first six Saturday fixtures all led the show, though Liverpool have assumed top billing more recently as their seven lead games include the two most recent shows on February 29 and March 7.

City also have more appearances in the second game, five to Liverpool’s three, with the Reds relegated to the third slot on four occasions with two appearances later in the show. City have appeared outside the top two only three times, and never later than fifth.

As in the Premier League table, Leicester are third in the MOTD standings with six lead appearances – though there is a surprise “Champions League place” for Brighton, who rank fourth.

The Seagulls have faced both City and Liverpool in lead games, with their games against Aston Villa and Everton also topping the bill in back-to-back weeks in October.

Tottenham are one of three teams with three lead appearances but Brighton’s four remarkably matches Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal combined.

United and Arsenal’s Europa League commitments play a part in that – at one stage this season, City had featured in the lead game more often than United had appeared in total due to the latter’s Sunday fixtures. December’s derby win remains the only time United have enjoyed top billing.

West Ham and Southampton, with three lead games each, rank ahead of any of the trio with the likes of Norwich, Villa and Watford alongside Chelsea on two.

Only four teams have yet to lead the show. They are Newcastle, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United – with Blades fans having the right to feel especially aggrieved.

The surprise European challengers have not even appeared second in the running order, with four third places but their other 13 games appearing fifth or later. Palace have just one appearance in the second game, with three apiece for Newcastle and Burnley.