The final weekend of the Premier League season. Can you believe it? Where on earth has all that time gone? Then again, what is that old saying? Time flies when you’re having fun? And my goodness, the last nine months have certainly been enjoyable.
It seems but a second ago that we were on the cusp of a brand-new campaign, with every team buoyed with expectation, looking to capitalise in a division that saw an unfathomable amount of change in the offseason.
Some sides took advantage of a Premier League that has been gripped by unfamiliarity, some have floundered because of it. But as we approach the last weekend of the season, the Premier League title is set to be decided on the final day. Drama surely awaits us.
Elsewhere, everything seems all but settled. Arsenal have secured the final Champions League spot despite a late rally from Everton; the Toffees will play in the Europa League after Roberto Martinez's fine first season in charge on Merseyside.
At the bottom, Norwich are all but relegated at the time of writing, while Fulham and Cardiff City already know they’ll be playing in the Championship next season.
But it’s at the top where the tension is set to unfold, with a battle for the Premier League set to take place between Manchester and Merseyside.
While Manchester City and Liverpool both have winnable home fixtures on the final day of the campaign, we were all witness to how final-day nerves can hamper players two years ago when City snatched the title from Manchester United in injury time on the last day of the season.
City are certainly the favourites to win the title at this juncture, but Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers insists it's not over quite yet, per Andy Hunter in The Guardian:
It is a tough ask for City. To play three games at this stage of the season that really, really matter is a real tough ask. Aston Villa are an incredible team on the counterattack and better away from home, and West Ham on their day can be a really difficult opponent.
Manchester City need to win all their games which means they will have won five games in a row and they have done that only once this season, so it will be a wee bit new for them. It is certainly not over by a long way. If we can win our two games then it could go a long way to deciding whether we finish top or not.
So will we get another moment that’ll burn bright in the annals of Premier League history?
Given the continuously oscillating nature of this campaign, it’d probably be a bigger surprise if Week 38 didn’t yield anything enthralling to talk about! Hopefully, it’ll be enough to see us through to the start of the World Cup, anyway.
Here are your final-day fixtures and predictions in England’s top division and a closer look at the two fixtures that will have a major say in determining the destination of the Premier League title:
|Cardiff vs. Chelsea||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||0-1|
|Fulham vs. Crystal Palace||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
|Hull vs. Everton||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||0-2|
|Liverpool vs. Newcastle||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||5-0|
|Manchester City vs. West Ham||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||2-0|
|Norwich vs. Arsenal||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-3|
|Southampton vs. Manchester United||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
|Sunderland vs. Swansea||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-0|
|Tottenham vs. Aston Villa||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||2-1|
|West Brom vs. Stoke||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
Manchester City vs. West Ham United
If Manchester City can beat Aston Villa on Wednesday evening, then a win against West Ham at the Etihad on the final day of the campaign will almost certainly be enough for them to secure their second league title in three campaigns.
City supporters will be hoping their team make things a little more comfortable than their maiden Premier League triumph, when Sergio Aguero scored a 94th-minute winner against QPR to secure the title.
Who will win the title?
That day, QPR were battling for their Premier League status, but their opponents on Sunday will be West Ham, a team who have absolutely nothing to play for at this late stage.
It’s debatable whether or not that’ll be a help or a hindrance for City, but they still should have enough in the tank to overcome Sam Allardyce’s Hammers team.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team have done the hard work in beating Everton at Goodison Park in Week 37. Now they need to perform like champions in their final two games to get the job done. You suspect that it’s an opportunity they will grasp with both hands.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United
Liverpool vs. Newcastle United
If Liverpool beat Crystal Palace on Monday evening, then it’ll be guaranteed that the title race will go down to the wire, with Rodgers’ side hosting Newcastle at Anfield in Week 38.
For Liverpool, Alan Pardew’s team represent the perfect opposition for a final-day clash. While City will face a West Ham side that are largely cohesive and pretty disciplined, the Toon Army have looked appalling in recent weeks.
There is a chance that Liverpool could need a significant swing of goals to win this title on the final day, and if they need to beat Newcastle by six, seven or even eight goals, you’d be a brave man to back against them doing so.
Some have a sneaky feeling the Reds might not need a huge swing in the goal difference, though:
No need for Liverpool to beat Newcastle 10-0. Andy Carroll's going to score a late, late equaliser against City to give them the title.— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) May 3, 2014
Rodgers’ team have been sensational in front of their own supporters and will be looking to finish the campaign off in style regardless of whether or not they will be lifting the Premier League title. They’ll be desperate to put on a show at Anfield before the summer, and that can only mean bad news for Newcastle.
The Geordie faithful staged a mass walkout during their recent win against Cardiff City, and expect there to be further protests here against Pardew and unpopular owner Mike Ashley. Will they fill their away allocation? Or will we see scenes similar to those at St James' Park last weekend?:
Liverpool will take advantage of the disarray within their opponent's camp and finish the campaign with a flourish. Whether it’ll be enough for them to win their first Premier League title in 24 years remains to be seen.
Prediction: Liverpool 5-0 Newcastle United