Manchester City eyes title glory on season's last day
MANCHESTER, England - Manchester City will hope to avoid the nerve-shredding drama of the 2011-12 season's final day when they host West Ham United in their Premier League title decider on Sunday.
Two years ago, City needed to match Manchester United's result to take the title on the last day and only prevailed after Sergio Aguero scored a heart-stopping injury-time winner at home to Queens Park Rangers.
This time around the scenario is more straightforward, as although City lead second-place Liverpool by only two points, their superior goal difference means that a draw against West Ham will suffice.
City closed to within touching distance of a second title in three years by overwhelming Aston Villa 4-0 on Wednesday, but manager Manuel Pellegrini has warned his side that the job is not finished yet.
"It is important to be calm ahead of this game," said the Chilean, who has already led City to glory in the League Cup.
"We have experienced players and some of them played in the game when we last won the Premier League, but the situation is different, many of the team are different, and we are playing different opposition. I expect to win the match and I'm not thinking about a draw or anything else."
Liverpool's title challenge was compromised by a 2-0 loss at home to Chelsea followed by a calamitous 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace on Monday, in which they let a 3-0 lead slip in the last 11 minutes.
However, if Liverpool win at home to Newcastle United and West Ham pull off a shock victory at the Etihad Stadium, the Merseyside club will secure their first English top-flight title since 1990.
"In terms of Sunday, all we can do is win our own game, and send the supporters away happy. They have been brilliant for us this year," said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
"If we win our game and the (City) result goes against us, we'll end up finishing second. That shows how much we've progressed and we've actually pushed them all the way to the very end. That's something we'll draw strength from."
While City's rout of Villa took them to 100 league goals for the campaign, Liverpool are on 99.
Farewells for Giggs, Lampard?
Meanwhile, Liverpool's top scorer Luis Suarez, who has netted 31 times this season, needs one more goal to claim the record for goals in a 38-game Premier League season outright.
With the four Champions League qualifying places already secured by City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, the only other issue to be decided at the top of the table concerns the Europa League slots.
Fifth-place Everton, who visit FA Cup finalists Hull City, have already secured one of the two Europa League berths and Tottenham Hotspur can pip Manchester United to the second if they avoid defeat at home to Villa.
United visit Southampton, where interim manager Ryan Giggs will take charge of the defending champions for the final time.
"There is not really a lot of pressure on me at the moment because it is just four games and we can't really win anything," said player-coach Giggs, who has yet to announce his plans for next season.
"However, we can qualify for the Europa League and we will carry on trying to do that."
Norwich City are already certain to join Fulham and Cardiff City in succumbing to relegation as they trail fourth-bottom West Bromwich Albion by three points with a vastly inferior goal difference.
Norwich close the campaign at home to Arsenal, who will hope to welcome back Jack Wilshere after the England midfielder spent two months on the sidelines with a fractured foot.
"He will be ready for the World Cup. For the rest, I do not want to make an individual case of anybody," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
"We have everybody who played (in the 1-0 win) against West Brom available. We could have the return of (Aaron) Ramsey and Wilshere could be in the squad as well for Sunday."
Third-place Chelsea will be without Frank Lampard due to illness for their trip to Cardiff, meaning the talismanic midfielder, whose contract is due to expire, may have already played his last game for the club. - Rappler.com