Champions to be crowned on final day as curtain closes riveting EPL season
A title decider, a London race for the final Champions League spot, and a tense relegation battle — the season finale of the English Premier League has it all.
It’s been another enthralling English Premier League season, filled with twists at every turn. However, as has been the case in recent campaigns, the race to be crowned champions of England is being contested by Manchester City and Liverpool.
With one game remaining for both of the protagonists this season, and a single point separating them, the race for the coveted league title is set to be decided a few metres from the finish line.
City, who are the reigning champions, suffered a rare lapse in concentration against West Ham last time out. Pep Guardiola’s men went into the halftime interval trailing, before fighting to level things at two-all before the final whistle.
After that result, if they are to decide their own fate, nothing but a win will do against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Intriguingly, their visitors are managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who could play a key role in securing the Premier League trophy for his former club.
It would also be a sprinkle of poetic justice. Despite a decorated 17-year career with the Reds, the Premier League was one piece of silverware which proved for Gerrard. If he plays such a pivotal role in his former club clinching the title, he will be further etched into Liverpool folklore.
If Villa earn a point or more, the door will be open for Liverpool, for whom a home victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers would mean a second Premier League era title.
This will be the ninth time that the race has been decided on the final day, with the last two also involving Man City and Liverpool.
Speaking on the uppercut-for-uppercut competitiveness between the two teams in recent years, Guardiola said it was due to the uncompromising nature of both camps. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp agrees.
“It’s good to be honest. And he is right. I can give all the compliments because it’s incredible. The consistency City show, the quality they have… it’s a team full of wonderful footballers,” the German tactician told Sky Sports.
“The most challenging thing is when you have these talented boys to make it clear the importance of throwing everything on the pitch. And they do it. I really respect that a lot. We do it as well. It’s the same mix,” added Klopp.
“We are different teams with similar skills and I’m not sure intense is even the right word anymore. The levels we push each other to is absolutely crazy.”
The omens are on City’s side as the teams who have been top at the start of the day on all eight previous occasions have gone on to lift the trophy.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are fuelled by the pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple. Having already clinched a domestic cup double, they can still clinch the league and are also in the Uefa Champions League final.
In pursuit of Europe
Following their 1-1 draw against Leicester City on Thursday night, Chelsea head into their final fixture (versus Watford) of a disappointing season knowing they have clinched third and qualified for next season’s Champions League.
They lead fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by three points, but the Blues’ goal difference is almost double that of their London neighbours.
Whereas Chelsea are assured of their place in Europe’s premier club competition, Antonio Conte’s Spurs can still miss out if they drop points against already relegated Norwich. The gap between the Lilywhites and Arsenal in fifth is two points.
For the Gunners, who had been in pole position for fourth place until two recent losses on the trot, the mandate is simple: win at all costs and leave the rest to the football deities.
Battle for survival
Everton have flirted with relegation for large parts of this season. However, following a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace on Thursday, the Toffees are guaranteed Premier League safety for at least another season.
The key win over Palace took Frank Lampard’s charges to 39 points — four more than 17th-placed Burnley and Leeds United in 18th.
With Watford and Norwich already relegated, there is space for one more Premier League side in the second tier. Both Leeds and Burnley will be battling for their survival this weekend.
The former will lock horns with a formidable Brentford side, away from home. Meanwhile, Burnley will host a Newcastle United team which once hovered in and around the relegation zone — but has been reborn under the tutelage of Eddie Howe.
All matches take place on Sunday, with kick-off being 5pm for each one. DM