Not since 2013/14 season when Manchester City beat Liverpool to the Premier League on the last day has the title gone to the wire and history is repeating itself this season again. Having absorbed everything Liverpool could throw at them in a titanic title battle in which leadership exchanged hands 32 times, The Citizens will retain their crown with victory at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday
It is possible they could get by with a draw, or even an unlikely defeat, as they will start their final game one point ahead but Pep Guardiola’s side know better than to expect gifts from Merseyside.
In all likelihood City will rack up a 14th successive Premier League win and Liverpool will beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to make it nine in a row and City will take the honours with 98 points to Liverpool’s 97.
To put that into perspective those totals would be the second and third highest in the history of the Premier League behind only City’s record-breaking 100-point haul last season when Guardiola delivered his first title.
If there was ever a case to share the trophy it is this season, such has been the excellence of both clubs.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool finished 25 points behind City last year, but rose to the challenge and have bridged that gap playing football that at times has surpassed even the dazzling standards of Guardiola’s side.
Liverpool have lost just once to City’s four defeats and were briefly seven points in front in January, but in the run-in they have found that as well as the style that is Guardiola’s blueprint, his team also have core of steel.
That manifested itself perfectly on Monday when, with Leicester City holding out at the Etihad Stadium, captain Vincent Kompany thumped home a 30-metre screamer to send his side into the final day with their fate in their hands.
It was their third 1-0 victory in four games and, say what you like about Liverpool’s armour-plated defence, City have conceded only three times in their last 13 games as they relentlessly went about becoming the first club to retain the Premier League title since Manchester United 10 years ago.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson admitted his side need a “miracle” to win the title now, but in a week in which they performed one to beat Barcelona 4-0, overhauling a three-goal deficit to reach the Champions League final, it would be folly to dismiss the notion of him raising the trophy aloft to end Liverpool’s 29-year wait since they last reigned supreme.
“City are a great team, but so are we. We’ve competed right to the very end.Whoever gets it will deserve it. From our point of view, we couldn’t have done any more,” Henderson said.
It is only the eighth time in the Premier League era that the title has been decided on the final day.
Meanwhile, defender Lewis Dunk has said Brighton will not be looking to hand City the Premier League title on Sunday as the hosts are not planning on making City’s job easy, despite securing Premier League safety already last weekend.
Cardiff’s defeat against Crystal Palace meant Brighton couldn’t be caught, and Chris Hughton’s team then pulled off a respectable draw at Arsenal on Sunday.
And Dunk admitted that the Seagulls are solely focused on finishing a testing season on a high – even if there will be added interest in the game.
“It’s about us doing our own jobs, as a professional footballer you just want to go out and win the games you play,” Dunk said.
“It will be nice to go out and have the pressure off slightly this week, we finally have no pressure – I think that might have held us back in recent weeks, but it’s done now, and we’ve earned our place for another year. We’ve got one game left now and it’s a big one – we showed on Sunday that although we were safe we went out and performed and put our bodies on the line.
“The whole world will be watching and it’s a big chance to show everyone what we’re about – it will be a historic game to be involved in and that’s excellent, in the last home game of the season we want to send the supporters home happy with something to cheer about,” Dunk concluded.
Interestingly, if Liverpool upset the odds and pip Manchester City to the title on Sunday, the silver trophy they lift for the first time will not be the original but a replica, The Times reported on Thursday.
Liverpool trail Manchester City by a point ahead of the final day of the season, when they host Wolverhampton Wanderers while the league leaders travel to Brighton and Hove Albion knowing a win will make them champions.
Since matches on the final day of the season are played simultaneously, the Premier League will have a replica trophy on standby at Anfield in case Jurgen Klopp’s side win the title.
The replica is used by the Premier League and often on display in television studios and on promotional tours. The original, which has been at City’s Etihad Stadium since they won it last year, will be shipped to Brighton for Sunday’s game.
League winner’s medals will also be made available at both stadiums and any player who has made at least five appearances this season will receive one. That is currently 21 players at City, 19 at Liverpool.
Liverpool have been English league champions 18 times but their last title came in 1990 before the Premier League was formed.
However, Huddersfield Town, Fulham and Cardiff City have already been relegated while Chelsea are certain of a top-four finish and Tottenham Hotspur can only be denied by an improbable scenario in which they lose to Everton at home and Arsenal win at Burnley and also bridge an eight-goal inferior goal difference.
Even the “best of the rest” issue is decided with Wolves guaranteed seventh spot in their first season back in the top flight.
So there will be no distractions as Europe’s most absorbing title race in years plays out its final acts simultaneously on the south coast and Merseyside.