Manchester City and United fight for top spot on Super Sunday
Premier League preview: It's not just the two Manchester clubs with everything to play for
SO HOW are you feeling on Super Sunday? Ready for an afternoon of nail biting, teeth gnashing, hand wringing and bum squeaking?
The last weekend of the 369-match Premier League season is set to be the most exciting since Blackburn Rovers pipped Manchester United to the title by a point on the final day of the 1994-95 season.
But it’s not just about Manchester City and Manchester United battling it out for the right to be crowned kings of England. Down at the foot of the table there promises to be a backyard scrap to avoid the third and final relegation spot while Arsenal, Spurs and Newcastle will be going at it hammer and tongs to see who can finish third and secure the last remaining automatic qualification place for next season’s Champions League.
To help you work out what your team has to do we’ve compiled our Super Sunday guide detailing the various permutations on offer. It’s so easy even a JP Morgan chief executive will be to keep track of events.
All City have to do to win their first top-flight title for 44 years is beat 17th-placed Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad Stadium. QPR, incidentally, have gone 12 away matches in the league without a win. City and United are level on 86 points but the Sky Blues’ goal difference is better than their noisy neighbours by eight.
Not surprisingly, City boss Roberto Mancini is confident: “I trust them 100 per cent," he said of his players. "They know they have everything in their hands. They've worked very hard and fought for every game, for one year, and… in the end the team that wins deserves to win, always.”
Of course there is one way that United could retain their title even if City do brush aside QPR – and that’s by thrashing Sunderland by nine plus goals. Which is about as likely as Mario Balotelli ever acting his age.
Instead, as Alex Ferguson said on Friday, United are banking on City to do “something stupid” – such as losing or drawing. Even if that happens United must better City’s result.
If both City and United draw or lose the title goes to the blue half of Manchester. As Ferguson admits it all makes for a finale that is “fantastic for the neutral, fantastic for the media, but agony for both clubs."
With only the team finishing third guaranteed of playing in next season’s Champions League (should Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in next week’s Champions League final they qualify; if they lose the team finishing fourth in the Premier League get the remaining place) there is an estimated £30m at stake this afternoon. That’s the revenue the club finishing third can expect to receive from the Champions League.
As it stands this morning Arsenal are third on 67 points, Spurs fourth on 66 and Newcastle fifth on 65. So if the Gunners win away at West Bromwich Albion they finish third.
If the Gunners lose and Tottenham beat Fulham at home and Newcastle win away at Everton then Arsenal will finish fifth and Arsene Wenger will no doubt blame the referee while Robin van Persie will be on the phone to his agent first thing Monday morning. Oh, and the Gunners will have the Europa League to look forward to next season as well.
But Arsenal will still finish third if they draw, Tottenham lose and Newcastle win; or if Arsenal lose by a single goal, Tottenham draw or lose and Newcastle do likewise. So Arsenal are in the strongest position of the three and Newcastle – with their vastly inferior goal difference – the weakest.
With Wolves and Blackburn already condemned to the Championship, the third relegation spot is between 18th-placed Bolton Wanderers and 17th-placed Queens Park Rangers. Two points separate the sides with Bolton’s appalling goal difference also a factor.
In short, the Trotters must win away at Stoke – something that only four sides have managed in the League this season – while relying on City to beat Rangers. Any other result won’t do for Bolton – it’s either three points or Peterborough away next season.