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 champions Manchester City, the odds on favourites, will retain the title should they defeat Brighton on Sunday. Should Pep Guardiola’s men triumph at the Amex, then that is it. City are the Premier League champions.
But in a week in which City’s chief rivals 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 fail to beat Brighton and Liverpool are crowned champions.
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 they 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 they provide the venue for yet another remarkable chapter in the club’s history.
If Liverpool, fresh from that astonishing victory against Barcelona, win against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on Sunday, then they will finish the season with 97 points — the highest any team in second has ever achieved. Even more galling is the fact that should they avoid defeat against Wolves, they would have lost just one league game all season.
Here’s how the great battle between two of England’s and Europe’s most in-form clubs unfolded:
Jan 3: Man 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 were 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 they fell behind to Sergio Aguero’s 40th minute strike. Liverpool equalised after the break through Firmino but Sane’s strike sealed the points for Guardiola’s men.
Points: Liverpool 54, Man City 50
Jan 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 equaliser, just before half time, denied the home side all three points and the opportunity to capitalise on Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat by Newcastle 24 hours earlier.
Points: Liverpool 61, Man City 56
Feb 10: Man City 6-0 Chelsea
Aguero scored a hat-trick and Manchester City scored four goals inside opening 25 minutes on their 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, equalled the record held by former Blackburn and Newcastle forward Alan Shearer.
Points: Man City 65, Liverpool 65
Feb 24: Man 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 per cent possession.
The draw took Liverpool above 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
Mar 3: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Everton took great delight in preventing Liverpool from returning to the top of the Premier League table after holding their neighbours to a goalless draw at Goodison Park.
Salah was twice denied as Everton goalkeeper Pickford and his defence 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: Man 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 their own but failed to find a way through, despite having scored three times at the Etihad days earlier on their way to securing a 4-4 draw on aggregate to qualify for the Champions League semi-final.
City’s victory took its tally to 86 and a point clear of Liverpool with four games remaining.
Points: Man City 86, Liverpool 85
April 24: Man United 0-2 Man City
Manchester City eased to a 2-0 victory over struggling neighbours 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: Man 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 them back to the top of the Premier League table.
Points: Liverpool 94, Man City 92
May 6: Man City 1-0 Leicester City
Few 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, City will win the title if they defeat Brighton.
But should they fail, Liverpool can capitalise 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.
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