Man City, Liverpool set for judgement day in title race
Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City side to grasp the chance at greatness by claiming a fourth Premier League title in five seasons by holding off Liverpool’s title charge on Sunday.
Guardiola’s side are one point clear of the quadruple-chasing Reds heading into the final day of the season.
City face Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium knowing a victory is enough to seal the title.
But if City drop points, Liverpool will be crowned champions for a English record-equalling 20th time if they beat Wolves at Anfield.
Another league title would be Guardiola’s 10th in just 13 seasons as a manager after winning three La Liga and Bundesliga crowns with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Only legendary former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson’s 13 English titles in 27 years at Old Trafford can rival Guardiola’s strike rate in Europe’s top leagues in the modern era.
“Of course it would be great to win four in five seasons. When I arrive and people here say the Premier League is really difficult, the toughest one, everyone wins different ones.
“Just Sir Alex Ferguson with United could do four in five years. When this happens, you realise the magnitude of this United (team) in this period and how they were able to do it many times.
“We’re close to being a part of that and we have to try to take it.”
Holding off Liverpool would be arguably City’s finest achievement in Guardiola’s six-year reign.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, who were beaten to the title by City on the last day of the 2018-19 season, are in the midst of an historic attempt to win the quadruple.
Having already won the FA Cup and League Cup, as well as earning a Champions League final date with Real Madrid in Paris on May 28, Liverpool could become the first English club to claim all four major trophies in a single season.
‘A joy to be part of it‘
Klopp has continually played down Liverpool’s astonishing chase for a clean sweep and he insisted the season has already exceeded his wildest expectations.
“Imagine somebody tells you before the season, you’re going to be in all three cup finals and want to fight for the league. You would say ‘Yeah, good luck with that’,” said Klopp, who led Liverpool to their first title for 30 years in 2020.
“It has been tough but great. It’s absolutely a joy to be part of it. Being part of this group is exceptional. Now we have to make sure we enjoy the last two massive games.”
While the climax to the title race is the main focus at the end of an enthralling season, there will be plenty of drama elsewhere.
The fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish has gone down to the wire, with fourth placed Tottenham controlling their fate.
Spurs just need a point to finish fourth when they travel to already-relegated Norwich.
“We know the importance of the game. If someone thinks the situation is easy I am not that person and I don’t transfer these thoughts to my players,” Conte said.
Spluttering Arsenal have to beat Everton at the Emirates Stadium and hope their north London rivals lose to steal fourth spot.
With incoming boss Erik ten Hag set to watch from the stands, sixth-placed Manchester United must win at Crystal Palace to avoid the ignominy of slipping into the Europa Conference League.
A draw or defeat for United would open the way for West Ham to leapfrog them into the Europa League if they beat Brighton.
At the other end of the table, Burnley and Leeds are locked in a tense fight for survival.
Third bottom Leeds are behind fourth bottom Burnley on goal difference and will be relegated if the Clarets beat Newcastle at Turf Moor.
If Burnley drop points, Leeds could stay up depending on their result at Brentford.