The English Premier League title remains firmly up for grabs entering the final week of the long season.
Rather than creating clarity, the last few weeks have clouded the EPL table even further, giving three clubs, but realistically just Manchester City and Liverpool, a chance at capturing the crown.
All four Champions League spots are clinched, and Cardiff City and Fulham are officially bound for relegation. That takes some excitement out of the Premier League's final fixture, but that whole title thing more than makes up for it.
Here's a look at the updated table after the weekend action. Note that Liverpool still has a crucial match on the slate for Monday afternoon against Crystal Palace.
|Premier League Table|
|12||West Ham United||37||11||7||19||40||49||-9||40|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||36||7||15||14||42||55||-13||36|
Race for First Place
Three clubs remain in the hunt for first place, although Manchester City and Liverpool are the top contenders to win it all.
Per ESPN's Paul Carr, the odds are in City's favor, but Liverpool has a fighter's chance. Chelsea, meanwhile, needs everything to perfectly fall in line to jump from third to first.
All three teams close out the season against favorable opponents, and all three of them will face sub-.500 teams with first place on the line. Chelsea gets the easiest adversary in last-place Cardiff City, who have earned just seven victories, 30 points and 31 goals through 37 matches. They have mustered two scores in their past five games, and not even a monumental upset victory would save them from relegation.
Unfortunately for the Blues, their chances are microscopic even with a win over Cardiff. They were riding high after defeating Liverpool in a pivotal match on April 27, but they squandered that good will with a loss against Atletico Madrid and a draw versus Norwich City on Sunday.
Chelsea needs a win and no wins from Manchester City and Liverpool in two matches each. The top two squads can at most each earn one point from Chelsea to escape with first.
The ball is in Manchester City's court due to their higher goal differential. Liverpool won't make a nine-goal discrepancy in two games, so they'll have to earn more points in the final pair of bouts.
After facing Crystal Palace on Monday, Liverpool will square off against Newcastle on Sunday. Each holds a minus-15 goal difference while Crystal Palace is tied with Norwich City for the EPL's lowest overall goal tally (28).
Former Liverpool winger John Barnes put the Reds' title push into perspective, reminding The Independent's Carl Markham and Paul Hirst that the club has taken massive strides since finishing seventh last year.
"All of the Liverpool fans will be disappointed if Manchester City win the title but at the start of the season if you asked them if they would take fourth place they would have said yes," Barnes said.
After floating around near fourth place for most of the season, Manchester City soared to first with three straight victories, including Saturday's 3-2 win over fifth-place Everton.
They get Aston Villa on Wednesday and West Ham on Sunday to cement their late surge, a warranted one considering their plus-59 goal differential. While they're in strong shape to take the title, don't book it just yet. On September 28, Aston Villa earned a 3-2 upset at Villa Park.
The long EPL season looks poised to close on a high note with meaningful matches dispersed throughout the week.
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