Premier League title race: Liverpool and Manchester City set for dramatic finale
After a week in which football has redefined the word “incredible,” the Premier League title race enters the final chapter of an extraordinary season.
Reigning champion Manchester City, the odds on favorite, will retain the title should it defeat Brighton on Sunday. Should Pep Guardiola’s men triumph at the Amex, then that is it. City is the Premier League champion.
But in a week in which City’s chief rival Liverpool qualified for the Champions League final in the most dramatic of circumstances, and Tottenham stunned European football with an astonishing comeback win at Ajax, you can perhaps forgive City fans for feeling slightly apprehensive.
To that end, the Premier League has confirmed that two trophies will be on standby for Sunday, just in case Manchester City fails to beat Brighton and Liverpool is crowned champion.
The ‘Champions Trophy’, which has been sitting in City’s trophy cabinet all season, will be brought to Brighton for Guardiola’s team to lift should it be triumphant. A second trophy, identical in appearance and with an engraved base detailing past Premier League champions, will be at Anfield for Liverpool should it provide the venue for yet another remarkable chapter in the club’s history.
Still, Brighton, one place outside of the relegation zone, have offered little in way of a scare factor for a City side that defeated the south coast club in the FA Cup semifinal last month. For Brighton, without a win in eight league games, the only highlight being a draw away at Arsenal, the season is all but over after narrowly escaping relegation.
But should Brighton decided against a day trip to the beach and instead gain a result against City, then the Premier League title could be off to Merseyside.
If Liverpool, fresh from that astonishing victory against Barcelona, wins at Anfield on Sunday then it will finish the season with 97 points — the highest any team in second has ever achieved. Even more galling is the fact that should it avoid defeat against Wolves, it would have lost just one league game all season.
Both City and Liverpool have been exceptional, but only one can become Premier League champion. So far, the lead at the top of table has changed hands 32 times … only Liverpool can make it 33.
Here’s how the great battle between two of England’s and Europe’s most in-form clubs unfolded.
October 7: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City
Manchester City wasted a glorious opportunity to claim a first win in 15 years at Anfield after Riyad Mahrez missed an 85th minute penalty.
Mahrez fired high and wide of the goal after teammate Leroy Sane was fouled by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.
His miss left both teams unbeaten after eight games, with City top of the pile ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool on goal difference.
Points: Manchester City 20, Liverpool 20
December 2: Liverpool 1-0 Everton
Better late than never, Liverpool sneaked past local rival Everton courtesy of Divock Origi’s 96th minute winner.
Origi, making his first Premier League appearance since August 2017, netted from close-range after a mistake by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The dramatic scenes at the end of the contest were too much for some to handle with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp running onto the pitch to celebrate — an act he later apologized for.
The win moved Liverpool to within two points of Manchester City with 14 games of the season having been played.
December 8: Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City
City suffered its first defeat of the Premier League season as Chelsea claimed a surprise victory at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz brought an end to City’s 21-game unbeaten league run stretching back to April 2018, and a sequence of 14 unbeaten games away from home.
City boss Pep Guardiola refused to blame his players for the defeat, insisting they had been “fantastic.”
Points: Liverpool 42, Manchester City 41
December 22: Manchester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
City suffered its first home defeat of the season as Crystal Palace pulled off a stunning 3-2 win at the Etihad.
Trailing to Ilkay Gundogan’s 27th-minute strike, Palace roared back to lead 3-1 with Andros Townsend’s exquisite strike a contender for goal of the season.
Kevin De Bruyne pulled one back with five minutes remaining but Palace held on to record its first win at City for 28 years.
The defeat, City’s first at home in the league all season, halted a run of nine successive league victories at the Etihad for Guardiola’s side.
Points: Liverpool 48, Manchester City 44
Dec 29: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick as Liverpool came from behind to thrash Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield.
The home side led 4-1 at the interval with Firmino’s quickfire double canceling out Ainsley Maitland Niles’ opener for Arsenal, before Sadio Mane and Mo Salah got in on the act.
Firmino completed his treble from the penalty spot in the second half to leave Liverpool nine points clear of second place Tottenham and 10 ahead of City.
Liverpool’s total of 54 points from its opening 20 Premier League games was the third highest in Premier League history after Chelsea (55 in 2005-06) and Manchester City (58 in 2017-18
Points: Liverpool 54, Manchester City 44
January 3: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
City claimed a dramatic 2-1 win to end Liverpool’s unbeaten 20-game start to the Premier League season and move to within four points of Klopp’s side.
Leroy Sane’s strike, 18 minutes from time, secured all three points for City from a game of fine margins at the Etihad.
Liverpool was denied the opening goal of the game in the first half when Mane’s effort was cleared off the line by John Stones with the ball just 1.12 cm from going over.
Having gone so close, it was even more galling for Liverpool when it fell behind to Sergio Aguero’s 40th minute strike. Liverpool equalized after the break through Firmino but Sane’s strike sealed the points for Guardiola’s men.
Points: Liverpool 54, Manchester City 50
January 30: Liverpool 1-1 Leicester
Liverpool missed the opportunity to move seven points clear of Manchester City after being held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester at Anfield.
After taking a third minute lead through Mane, Klopp’s men failed to impose themselves on the contest with a snow-affected pitch causing problems for both sets of players.
Harry Maguire’s equalizer, just before half time, denied the home side all three points and the opportunity to capitalize on Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat by Newcastle 24 hours earlier.
Points: Liverpool 61, Manchester City 56
February 10: Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea
Aguero scored a hat-trick and Manchester City scored four goals inside opening 25 minutes on its way to thrashing Chelsea 6-0.
The result took City back to the top of the Premier League on goal difference, though having played a game more than Liverpool.
Aguero’s hat-trick, his 11th in the Premier League, equaled the record held by former Blackburn and Newcastle forward Alan Shearer.
Points: Manchester City 65, Liverpool 65
February 24: Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool endured a frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford after failing to beat a Manchester United side ravaged by injury.
The home side had to make three substitutions in the first half because of injuries to key players, but still managed to prevent Liverpool from scoring.
In fact, Klopp’s side barely threatened, managing just one attempt on target despite enjoying 65% of possession.
The draw took Liverpool above Manchester City and back to the top of the table but only by a single point with 11 games remaining.
Points: Liverpool 66, Manchester City 65
March 3: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Everton took great delight in preventing Liverpool from returning to the top of the Premier League table after holding its near neighbor to a goalless draw at Goodison Park.
Salah was twice denied as Everton goalkeeper Pickford and his defense frustrated Liverpool’s attempts to find a breakthrough.
The result left Liverpool in second place on 70 points, one behind City, with nine league games remaining.
Points: Manchester City 71, Liverpool 70
April 20: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham
City returned to the top with a narrow 1-0 win over Tottenham just days after the London club had ended Guardiola’s hopes of winning the Champions League.
In a tight contest, Phil Foden’s fifth minute header was enough to secure all three points for the home side.
Spurs had chances of its own but failed to find a way through, despite having scored three times at the Etihad days earlier on its way to securing a 4-4 draw on aggregate to qualify for the Champions League semifinal.
City’s victory took its tally to 86 and a point clear of Liverpool with four games remaining.
Points: Manchester City 86, Liverpool 85
April 24: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City
Manchester City eased to a 2-0 victory over struggling neighbor Manchester United in a game that once again highlighted the gap in quality between the two rivals.
Goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane secured the points as Guardiola became the first manager to win three consecutive away Premier League games at Old Trafford.
The win took City back to the top on 89 points, one ahead of Liverpool, with three games remaining.
It was the 28th occasion that the lead had changed hands at the top of the Premier League, the joint-most alongside the 2000/2001 campaign.
Points: Manchester City 89, Liverpool 88
May 4: Newcastle 2-3 Liverpool
Few Premier League clashes have provided such entertainment as Liverpool’s battles with Newcastle and this fixture didn’t disappoint.
Leading through Virgil van Dijk’s early header, Liverpool were caught cold by the home side with Christian Atsu firing home from close range to send St James’ Park into a frenzy.
Salah’s clever finish gave Liverpool the lead for the second time before Newcastle hit back nine minutes after the interval when Salomon Rondon’s fierce effort flew into the corner of the net.
But with the clock beginning to tick down, Divock Origi, on in place of the injured Salah, headed an 86th minute winner to secure a priceless victory for the visiting side and take it back to the top of the Premier League table.
Points: Liverpool 94, Manchester City 92
May 6: Manchester City 1-0 Leicester City
Few Manchester City fans will ever forget this victory over Leicester with Vincent Kompany’s astonishing 30-yard strike taking his team to within one victory of retaining the Premier League title.
Kompany’s 70th minute effort broke the tension as Leicester threatened to steal a point and leave Liverpool in pole position with just one league game of the season remaining.
But Kompany’s goal secured a 13th consecutive Premier League win for his team and took City back to the top of the league, a point ahead of Liverpool.
It was the Belgian’s first goal from outside of the penalty area for the club since arriving in English football 11 years ago.
Points: Manchester City 95, Liverpool 94
On Sunday, Manchester City will win the title if it defeats Brighton.
Should it fail, Liverpool can capitalize by beating Wolves and leapfrogging City into top spot to claim the crown.
Whatever happens though, the events of the past week should tell you one thing: Expect the unexpected.