Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League on Monday night but not in the fashion they were hoping for. Having been three goals to the good against Crystal Palace, the Reds let the lead slip to draw 3-3 and only move ahead of Manchester City by one point.
Leading the Premier League table with one game to go would usually be ideal, but City still have a game in hand on Liverpool. Coupling that with their superior goal difference, the League Cup winners need just four points from their remaining two games to lift the title.
The point for Crystal Palace on Monday did little for their league position, as they remain in 11th. However, it did plenty for the reputation of their manager, Tony Pulis, who is now the odds-on favorite to win the LMA Manager of the Year Award, per Oddschecker.
|12||West Ham United||37||11||7||19||40||49||-9||40|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||36||7||15||14||42||55||-13||36|
|Manchester United v Hull||06 May 2014||8 p.m.||2-0|
|Manchester City v Aston Villa||07 May 2014||8 p.m.||3-0|
|Sunderland v West Brom||07 May 2014||8 p.m.||2-0|
Manchester United v Hull
Manchester United’s form may be patchy at best, but this is a contest in which they should be picking up a comfortable three points. Hull have gone through a sticky patch themselves since qualifying for the FA Cup final and have just one win in six Premier League games.
The climax to the FA Cup is not far away, and Hull players are likely to have one eye on the Wembley showdown with Arsenal rather than on the contest with United at Old Trafford. Certainly, full-blooded challenges and lung-busting runs are less likely to be seen in this game than in most.
United have an excellent record against the Tigers, as displayed by this stat from BBC Match of the Day:
The only fly in the ointment for United boss Ryan Giggs is the fact that Wayne Rooney will almost certainly miss the contest. The Welshman told MUTV, via Sky Sports, "Wayne is probably struggling for the game. He's not quite recovered. We'll continue to monitor him."
That should be no major issue for United, though, as Robin van Persie has returned to the side, having recovered from a knee injury.
The Red Devils may have suffered some awful results in front of their own fans so far this season, but with Hull's minds elsewhere, there should not be another one on Tuesday night.
Manchester City v Aston Villa
The Premier League trophy is now within touching distance for City, and they know that three points against Villa will all but secure the title for them.
Few are giving Villa much of a chance at the Etihad, but Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is living in hope, per Liverpool FC Fans Corner. He is keen to point out that City do not have two walkovers in front of them, although most would disagree:
Rodgers: "Villa are an incredible team on the counter & better away from home, and West Ham on their day can be a really difficult opponent"— JFT96 (@LFCFansCorner) May 4, 2014
Villa did beat City in the reverse fixture earlier this season, so the title favourites will be aware of the threat they pose. Gary Neville Sky Sports warned them of the dangers of complacency and the capabilities of Villa to perform:
If you were Pellegrini and the experienced players in the spine of the team who have won a championship before then you would be guarding massively against complacency. They must really prepare to have to win these last two matches.
Aston Villa put in some daft performances, some performances that surprise you every so often. They are capable of it.
City will also be without their first-choice striker Sergio Aguero, who limped off at the weekend against Everton.
Manuel Pellegrini has confirmed that Sergio Aguero will not be available for Man City's crucial game against Aston Villa on Wednesday #MCFC— InsideWorldFootball (@insidewldftball) May 6, 2014
It is, of course, not a foregone conclusion, but City are not about to let the title slip away in front of their own fans against a team with nothing to play for. Villa have lost five of their last seven games, and they are unlikely to come away from the Etihad with a result. A draw would take City back to the top of the table, but they will be going out to get all three, and they will almost certainly get what they want.
Sunderland v West Brom
If this was another league, elsewhere in Europe, plenty would be expecting a goalless draw, as a point each guarantees safety for both teams. However, this is the ultra-competitive Premier League, and this will be a hard-fought game by both sides.
So officially only Sunderland and West Brom could be relegated in Norwich's place - so ... Erm.... I wonder what price the draw on wed 😉— Sam Matterface (@sammatterface) May 4, 2014
Sunderland looked dead and buried a matter of weeks ago, but a draw against Manchester City followed by defeats of Chelsea, Cardiff and Manchester United have reinvigorated the Black Cats. They come into this clash as one of the form sides in the country and as firm favourites to beat West Brom.
The Baggies are now safe, and with nothing to play for, they should not put up much of a challenge to the rampant Black Cats. Sunderland have won their last two without conceding, and that could well happen again on Wednesday night.