Premier League title race: Liverpool or City?

Manchester City have the destiny of the Premier League title in their hands heading into Sunday's final day showdown, with the defending champions holding a slender one-point lead over quadruple-chasing Liverpool. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Liverpool, who are at home to Wolves, need to better the result achieved by City against an Aston Villa side managed by Reds great Gerrard if they are to take the title and stay on course for a remarkable quadruple of major trophies in the one season.   

When Manchester City defeated Chelsea 1-0 at home to go 13 points clear of the rest on January 15, their manager Pep Guardiola was surely right to insist that the Premier League title race was not done yet.

Some 281 days since the opening day of the campaign - August 13, 2021, it is not over. City still leads the table with 90 points from 37 matches and they need to beat Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium tomorrow to seal a fourth league crown in five years.

Such are the permutations after the Citizens drew 2-2 away to West Ham last Sunday to invite Liverpool back in the title frame.

After their 2-1 victory with big marks of strength of depth away to Southampton on Tuesday night, now Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are not only sniffing at a second league title in three seasons but a rare quadruple too.

On 89 points, the Kop can win the league if they defeat Wolves at Anfield and City falter. Millions of fans across the globe are still split on who will take it, so where will it go?

“Villa will be murdered. I don’t expect City to take any chances in a game of huge stakes,” says Brian Tukasingura, a sports presenter at Capital FM.

The feeling is mutual with most of his counterparts in the local sports industry. 

“The fate is in their (City) hands really. I am sure the home atmosphere will be too much for the travelling team,” Micheal Kigozi, a commentator with NBS Television notes.

City have scored 96 goals and it is four away from a century. That should be a motivating factor for Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and the departing lot of Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus.

“Villa have never really been a problem for City,” says John Torach, a sports host at Radio One FM. “They last got a point off City in 2015 and City nicked their best player off them last season, it’s a stretch.”

The Gerrard factor

When they met earlier in the season, City won 2-1 on December 1, 2021, but Villa have been reinvented since the arrival of Steven Gerrard from Scottish giants Rangers in November.

Former Liverpool captain Gerrard has elevated Villa with 10 wins and four draws in 25 league matches. He even has the company of attackers Phillipe Coutinho and Danny Ings, all formerly at Anfield.

“I have a blind feeling anyway, no analysis or anything, I just have a feeling that Gerrard will motivate Villa players enough to frustrate City then Liverpool do the job against Wolves,” says Clive Kyazze, a sports producer at See Television.

Since beating Chelsea, City have invited Liverpool back to the title race by losing 3-2 away to Tottenham, and then draws to Southampton, Crystal Palace, Liverpool itself and West Ham.

“We all know how much attachment Gerrard has to Liverpool and it will be great if his input helped them to lift the title,” said Ismael Kiyonga, a commentator at Akaboozi FM.

However, that’s quite rare a thought especially among those Score spoke to. 

“Villa have done well when Gerrard came in, but I don’t think they can frustrate City. City have an ability to make it count,” said Peter Tabu, a sportscaster with Radio City FM.

Liverpool have put the best run to catch up. Klopp’s machine run by a resolute Mohamed Salah, an evergreen Sadio Mane and new oil in Luis Diaz, has 15 wins and three draws in their last 18 league games. 
They are the only team yet to lose in 2022.

Yet, even if they reach 92 points, they may not lift the trophy with a tally that could have won the trophy in 25 of other Premier League 30 seasons.

Another undoing for this Merseyside club could be their divided attention in the quest for the quadruple. Liverpool have already beaten Chelsea at Wembley to win the Carabao Cup and FA Cup trophies.

There is also the Uefa Champions League final to play against Real Madrid in French capital Paris next weekend.

“City don’t have the distractions Liverpool have, and so have had all week to prepare for just one game, a luxury the schedule has not accorded them all season,” said Mark Ssali, head of corporate affairs at National Council of Sports.

Former Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) president Mark Namanya shares similar sentiments. “Liverpool have the distraction of the UCL final. Regardless, I don’t see how City won’t roll over Villa. I actually see a whitewash.”

“Well, I still think it’s not a hard one for City. They know what’s at stake. And they will get the job done,” said Leon Ssenyange, the vice president of Uspa.

City are masters of final day triumphs. They won their first Premier League title by beating QPR 3-2 thanks to Sergio Aguero’s goal at the death at the Etihad to edge Manchester United, who had triumphed 1-0 away at Sunderland, on goal difference on May 13, 2012.

Former United striker Wayne Rooney feels it was conspired for City to lift it a decade ago. “City get the second goal and QPR kick it straight back to them and that’s never been questioned - I find that strange,” he said, in part, recently.

So would the Premier League be fixed for a team to win? 
“I can never say never in sport, but I doubt an entire season can be fixed in that sense these days. It would be hard to pull off without the bubble being burst by one part or another,” former Daily Monitor sports editor Ssali adds.

“Never believed in such. Not sure City would have won as many titles as they have won,” Tukasingura dismissed.

“Match fixing exists but I am wondering how that is done. In 2012, City were the better team through the campaign and although United came within inches of grabbing that title, City were deserving winners,” Kiyonga says.

“I think Rooney was trying to sound politically right. No league can be 100 percent fix proof but all indicators show the Premier League is won or lost fair and square. Moreover now there is VAR,” added Kigozi.
Liverpool and City have shared the last five league titles.

Sunday live on DSTV - 6pm 
Title decider

Liverpool     vs.    Wolves
Man City     vs.    Aston Villa 
Champions League
Arsenal     vs.     Everton
Norwich     vs.    Tottenham
Relegation 
Brentford     vs.     Leeds
Burnley     vs.     Newcastle

*Additional information by AFP

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