EPL: 4 Most Exciting Final-Day Storylines

Tony MabertContributor IMay 7, 2012

EPL: 4 Most Exciting Final-Day Storylines

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    We are now at the start of a week which will end in arguably the most thrilling finale of any season since the inception of the Premier League 20 years ago.

    With the exception of Tuesday's rearranged fixture between Liverpool and Chelsea, every club has one match left to play on a hectic Sunday in which all sorts of issues are still to be settled.

    The title is guaranteed to go to Manchester, although whether it is the blue half or the red which is celebrating come Sunday evening is still unknown. The fight for the other two Champions League places is still in the balance, while there remains one more relegation spot to be avoided.

    Here's a rundown of the main issues to be settled this Sunday.

The Title Race

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    Key protagonists: Manchester City, Manchester United

    The recent Manchester derby was billed everywhere as a title decider, though of course it was nothing of the sort. Manchester City's 1-0 win over local rivals United put them top of the table—but only via a superior goal difference of eight.

    A 2-0 win from each of the top two last weekend has led to City already being as good as crowned champions, but they still have to match United's result this Sunday to confirm their first title in 44 years.

    City's home fixture against Queens Park Rangers and United's trip to Sunderland will most likely end in wins for both of the top two, but should the leaders slip up against relegation-battling QPR, then things will get very interesting.

Third Place

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    Key protagonists: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Chelsea

    Even if Chelsea seal a second win over Liverpool in the space of five days—following their FA Cup final triumph on Sunday—it seems highly unlikely they will be able to pinch third spot, which brings with it an automatic place in next season's Champions League.

    The Blues would then need to beat relegated Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and hope that third-placed Arsenal lose at West Brom, fourth-placed Tottenham are defeated at home by Fulham and fifth-placed Newcastle do not win at Everton.

    Recent results such as Arsenal's 3-3 draw with Norwich, Tottenham's 1-1 at Aston Villa and Newcastle's 4-0 defeat at Wigan give promise that their may well be one more twist in the race for third yet to come.  

Fourth Place

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    Key protagonists: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Chelsea

    Just as one of the aforementioned quartet will claim third, so one of them will end up fourth and hope to be involved in a two-legged qualification playoff for next season's Champions League.

    The operative word there is "'hope," because if Chelsea finish fifth or sixth then whoever ends up fourth faces a nervous, week-long wait for the Champions League final on May 19. That night, Chelsea take on Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena—and if the Blues win, then they will take the final of England's four allocated places in next season's competition in spite of their league finish.

    Whether it be Arsenal, Tottenham or Newcastle who finishes fourth in Chelsea's stead, expect sales of Bayern Munich shirts to rocket either in north London or on Tyneside in the week leading up to the final.

Final Relegation Place

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    Key protagonists: Bolton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa

    Watching Blackburn Rovers' relegation be confirmed with Monday's 1-0 home defeat to Wigan Athletic—which also sealed the Latics' place in the top flight for another season—was one of the most unedifying spectacles in Premier League history.

    A cold, miserable night of heavy rain saw one disgruntled fan throw a live chicken on to the pitch in protest against the Rovers' bumbling poultry farmer owners, and another come out of the crowd to throw his season ticket at manager Steve Kean.

    All of that means that Blackburn join Wolverhampton Wanderers in going down to the Championship—and there is still room for one more to join them.

    Villa are all but safe from the drop, as it would take results conspiring against them and a double-figure swing in goal difference, so it is between QPR and Bolton to see who will be playing in the second tier next term.

    Bolton, sitting two points behind QPR, face a trip to Stoke, a tough ask at the best of times. However, the Trotters will hold out hope of a final-day escape because QPR are also on the road, travelling to face title-chasing Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, a ground where City have dropped just two points in the league all season.

    Much has been made about the vengeful motivation of former City boss Mark Hughes when he returns to his old stomping ground, but the reality is that their fate will most likely be decided some 30-odd miles down the road at the Britannia Stadium.