Soccer: EPL title to be decided tomorrow

Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, right, celebrates with teammate James Milner after scoring the second goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton. Photo / AP
Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, right, celebrates with teammate James Milner after scoring the second goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton. Photo / AP

With Liverpool ready to pounce in case of a misstep, Manchester City will look to seize the Premier League title by beating West Ham United on the competition's final day.

After a campaign that has seen Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all spend time as front-runners, City are now only a point from a second title in three years thanks to a run of four successive victories.

Although City lead second-place Liverpool by only two points, their vastly superior goal difference - +63 to +50 - means that a draw against West Ham will suffice.

It is a situation not dissimilar to the one that confronted City on the final day of the 2011-12 campaign, when Sergio Aguero's injury-time winner against Queens Park Rangers ended the club's 44-year wait for a league crown.

This time around, City need only to avoid defeat, but playmaker David Silva has cited Liverpool's 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace on Monday as a warning sign that his team-mates cannot afford to ignore.

"Everyone is saying we have it won, but we still think it will be very difficult,'' the Spaniard told the club website.

"The games now are like finals. We cannot be complacent. What happened at Crystal Palace shows you can never take anything for granted. It was a warning to us about what can happen.

"We know if we get the win, we win the league, so there is pressure, but you have to enjoy these moments. They don't come along all that often.

"If you are enjoying it, you can express yourself. If you are suffering and edgy out on the field, that's when things don't work out so well.''

Having seen an 11-game winning streak ended by a 2-0 loss at home to Chelsea two weeks ago, Liverpool lost further ground at Palace when they let a 3-0 lead slip in the last 11 minutes.

However, if they win at home to Newcastle United and West Ham pull off a shock victory at the Etihad Stadium, the Merseyside club will secure their first English top-flight title since 1990.

"The expectancy is that Manchester City will win, but it certainly won't be easy for them, going into that last game, no matter what result you need,'' said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

"They'll want to win the game, but West Ham will want to finish on a high note as well and they know they have the players that can cause problems.''

With the four Champions League qualifying places already secured by City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, the only other issue to be decided at the top of the table concerns the Europa League slots.

Fifth-place Everton, who visit FA Cup finalists Hull City, have already secured one of the two Europa League berths and Tottenham Hotspur can pip Manchester United to the second if they avoid defeat at home to Villa.

United visit Southampton, where interim manager Ryan Giggs will take charge of the defending champions for the final time.

"I maintain my stance: we want to be in Europe,'' said player-coach Giggs, who has yet to announce his plans for next season. ``We can only qualify for the Europa League and we will carry on trying to do that.''

Norwich City are already certain to join Fulham and Cardiff City in the Championship next season as they trail fourth-bottom West Bromwich Albion by three points with a greatly inferior goal difference.

Norwich close the campaign at home to Arsenal, who will hope to welcome back Jack Wilshere after the England midfielder spent two months on the sidelines with a fractured foot.

Third-place Chelsea, meanwhile, end the season at Cardiff and manager Jose Mourinho has urged his side to sign off on a positive note after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Norwich last weekend.

"You could see against Norwich, it's difficult to find the right energy, the right mental approach when the season is over,'' he told Chelsea TV.

"But of course you put on the shirt, you go for a Premier League game, you have to find the minimum required to perform and to try to get a good result.''

-AAP

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