SUNDAY, May 12, if you’re a die-hard football fan, you will sitting right at the very edge of your seats as 10 Premiership matches kick-off at the same time in the final match of the English season.
The spotlight will clearly be on Manchester City and Liverpool as they fight it out until the final whistle to decide the winner.
And believe me, not for a very long time, have two magnificent clubs left it to the last 90 minutes of the season in what underlines what exceptional teams they both are, and what a special season this has been.
I fanatically support Tottenham Hotspur, which should comfortably finish in third spot and qualify for Europe but I’ve to put this down on paper that my television focus will be on City and Liverpool as it has been a title race like no other I can remember, because of the relentless way both teams have kept on getting results.
For the record, it is the eighth Premier League title race to go down to the final day. And notably, Champions League finalists Liverpool have not won the league since 1990.
THE GRAND FINALE
Touching hand to heart, I’m expecting both teams to continue their winning runs in their final league games of the season, which would inevitably mean Liverpool missing out on the title having only lost once in that competition all season.
Realistically Liverpool need to beat seventh-placed Wolves and hope Manchester City drop points against 17th-placed Brighton.
Whatever happens, the Reds have pushed City all the way. Their playing records have been phenomenal: Manchester City have won 31 of their 37 league games so far; Liverpool triumphed in 29 with only one defeat
Former award-winning Singapore national coach Jita Singh can feel the high-end tensions, too. He says: “What a dream-come-true climax. The top two have had a titanic battle all season, so it is fitting that it will be decided on the final day when City travel to Brighton and Liverpool host Wolves.
“I must say that the standard of football they have shown us has been phenomenal, even when the pressure was on. I thought that might change once we got to the final few weeks of the season but both teams have kept on delivering, and in style too.”
Jita, who won the SNOC ‘Coach of the Year 1980’ accolade, adds: “The English Premiership standard is also clearly reflected in four British teams in two Europe finals – the Champions League and Europa League finals, which has never happened before. They have the bragging rights to be playing in the most competitive professional league in the world.”
HOW THEY STAND UP
Let’s go to the mathematics of the biggest matches today: If City beat Brighton, they will have won their final 14 league games, while if Liverpool overcome Wolves they will have managed nine in a row.
And big salutes to note that we have never seen two teams finish with more than 90 points before, and that shows the level where they are both operating.
In my view, they will fight tooth and nail to the last second of the match. Jurgen Klopp’s side showed what they were made of with their last-gasp win at Newcastle on Saturday. City responded with one of the most memorable moments of the entire campaign when they faced Leicester City two days later.
Indeed, it would have taken something out of the ordinary to get them the three points, and it turned out that is exactly what they got from their captain Vincent Kompany for the 1-0 match-winner. And, in my books, because of the sensationally-struck long-range importance of his goal, it will certainly be in my top three for the season.
Even as a Tottenham die-hard fan, I must confess that
I was out of my seat when it flew in and I found it amusing when I read in the newspapers Sergio Aguero (City striker) say afterwards he had told him not to shoot, because I felt like saying exactly the same thing!
But like a true-blue skipper Kompany took responsibility, at the precise time that City needed their big players and characters to step up. And that may just inspire the Blues in tonight’s final match to give it the best shot against Brighton to bring the EPL trophy to the Ethihad Stadium
PRAISE TO LIVERPOOL
Yes, Monday’s win took City back to the top of the Premier League as the lead changed hands for the 32nd time this season. Sometimes I cry for Klopp and the Reds because the way it happened must have been a kick in the teeth for Liverpool before the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.
But sterlingly true to the class of the Reds, they did not show it. And with Barca leading 3-0 from the first leg, nobody gave Liverpool a chance and understandably so.
Some of my best buddies support Liverpool and I’ve been asked umpteen times how harsh it would be on Liverpool if they were to end their season empty-handed. My heartfelt response reply was short and curt: They are such a talented team that they are not going to go away.
Klopp’s never-say-die fighters proved that again with the way they fought back to win the tie with an incredible performance that demonstrated the hunger, desire and will to win we have seen from them all season.
LOSING NINE-POINT LEAD
But, to be rightfully honest, as I look back at the season, Pool must be cursing how they squandered a nine-point lead (yes, nine points!) and on that extraordinary folly, I will say that if they are nudged out on the final day of the season, they should have no regrets.
Like for the June 1 Champions League final in Madrid, Liverpool obviously have another great chance of some silverware as the bookmakers have made them favourites to beat my beloved club Tottenham.
Tottenham, in their first Champions League final, will never ever give way and you can expect the fight-to-the-finish in an all-British clash that, in my opinion, will go my way…oops, Tottenham’s way!
But to be absolutely fair to Liverpool, even if they do win nothing, there is no way you could call their season a failure. Simply because of the mammoth improvement they have made and the entertainment they have given us – that is what they should be judged on.
Yet my heart bleeds for the bearded, bespectacled Klopp, who has not won a major trophy since the 2012 German “Double” with Borussia Dortmund.
MANCHESTER CITY SHINES BRIGHTER
For City, the lights are slightly brighter: They are looking to become the first team to win the English domestic “Treble”. Pep Guardiola’s side beat Chelsea on penalties in the Carabao Cup final and face Watford in the FA Cup final next Saturday.
But hold your horses, if you’re a betting man, let me say that there is still a mathematical chance of City and Liverpool finishing exactly level on points, goal difference and goals scored, which would mean a one-off title play-off at a neutral venue to decide the champions.
The only way that could happen is if City lose 4-0 to Brighton and Liverpool draw 4-4 with Wolves (those two results have combined odds of 18,750-1) – or a 5-1 defeat and 5-5 draw, a 6-2 defeat and 6-6 draw, and so on.
Sometimes it gets tear-jerking when I write this. But I’ve to put on record, that It is most unlucky that one of these two teams has to finish second in tonight’s final climax of the Premier League, because, in my honest opinion, neither Liverpool nor City deserve that. – By SURESH NAIR
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist with the Tottenham Hotspur badge stamped on his jersey and feels his club finishing on third position tonight is definitely another feather-in-the-cap, behind either City or Liverpool.