So it comes down to this: a win for Manchester City against Aston Villa at home Sunday on the last day of the English top-flight season guarantees that Pep Guardiola’s team retain their Premier League crown.
However, a draw or defeat for City would allow quadruple-chasing Liverpool the opportunity to steal in and snatch the title away from the defending champion.
Three years ago, City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title by a point, and will be favorites to do so again.
Since drawing 2-2 with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on April 10, City comfortably won its next three home games, scoring 13 goals.
Ahead of Sunday’s round of fixtures, Guardiola’s team has also had a week off, while Villa played on Thursday, drawing 1-1 with Burnley. Liverpool was also in midweek action, winning 2-1 at Southampton.
The form book would point to Liverpool beating Wolves at Anfield on Sunday. Since losing away to Leicester on December 28, Liverpool is unbeaten, winning 14 of its last 17 league games.
If Liverpool does manage to win the title, Jürgen Klopp’s team has the chance to secure an unprecedented quadruple by beating Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris’ Stade de France.
“We have essentially reached ‘the final’ of everything we have competed for,” said Klopp ahead of Sunday’s game against Wolves.
“Two domestic cups, the European Cup – and to take the Premier League campaign to the last match round is the equivalent of reaching a final. Saying how proud I am of our team and our club is an understatement.”
Ten years ago, City nearly made an almighty mess of a home game under similar circumstances against Queens Park Rangers – until Sergio Aguero made his mark in the 94th minute.
With City trailing 2-1 in the 92nd minute but requiring victory over QPR to win its first top-flight English title in 44 years, Edin Dzeko equalized.
Then, at 93:20 in the last minute of the game, a composed Aguero weaved his way through the frantic QPR defense and fired in a winner to secure victory and clinch the 2011/12 Premier League.
Aguero’s goal has been immortalized in the form of a statue outside the Etihad Stadium, which was unveiled earlier this month.
‘Fight until the end’
Sunday’s game at the Etihad has the potential to offer plenty of plot twists.
Villa’s manager is former Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, who would surely love to help deliver a title to a club he couldn’t win it with as a player.
The currrent Villa squad also includes two former Liverpool players – Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings.
“It is more difficult [to win the Premier League],” Guardiola told the City website. “There are lots of weeks, games, struggles with injuries and bad moments, tough opponents.
“The success is being there all the time in the last five years, except the year when Liverpool were unstoppable,” added Guardiola, referring to Klopp’s team winning the Premier League title in the 2019/2020 season.
“It’s every day, when you fight in the Premier League and fight until the end, it gives you happiness. You are happier when you win.
“It’s not a cup, it’s a routine. Doing a routine is most difficult in our lives.”
After 370 Premier League matches this season, eight of Sunday’s 10 fixtures have implications for the title, qualification for European competitions next season, or relegation to the Championship.
Tottenham Hotspur can secure Champions League football by avoiding defeat to already relegated Norwich – and deny rivals Arsenal in the process.
With Norwich City and Watford already relegated, Burnley must match Leeds United’s result to secure Premier League safety.
But if this season has taught us anything, expect the unexpected at both ends of the table.
According to Opta, this season is the first in competition history where it is mathematically possible for each position to change going into the final round of matches.