As Liverpool’s fringe players secured an important three points on the south coast, they knew two things. One, they had taken their quadruple bid into the last two games of the season, and two, the Premier League title would be decided on the final day for only the ninth time since 1992.
It’s an impressive achievement for a side that have already picked up both domestic cup competitions this term, but they will need a slip up from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on the final day - which given the Citizens’ past record - is extremely unlikely.
Of their five (almost six) Premier League titles, they’ve had to win four of them on the final day and including this season, three of their last-gasp title run-ins have come against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Aston Villa at home, even if they are managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, should be an absolute doddle as the Citizens look to win their fourth title in five years.
Although they’ve always got over the line, it hasn’t always been straightforward. Their most famous last day title win featured THAT Sergio Aguero last minute goal as Roberto Mancini’s side scored twice in added time to snatch the title away from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the most dramatic fashion.
Since that famous 93:20 goal, things have been a lot more simple for City in May. On all three occasions they have held a points advantage over Liverpool and on the previous two occasions they lifted the Premier League trophy at full-time. 2013/14 is perhaps the most memorable, but not for its final day.
It was the season of ‘Crystanbul’ and Gerrard’s slip that saw City go into the final day with a two point advantage over the Reds and a straightforward 2-0 win over West Ham saw them win their second title in three seasons.
In 2018/19, we saw the finest title race in terms of quality as the two teams finished on 98 and 97 points respectively. Liverpool had won eight games on the bounce heading into the final day, while City were on a run of 13 wins and they beat Brighton 4-1 away to secure the title. Briefly it looked as if they might slip up as Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in front, but Guardiola’s City side were so relentless in their hunt for perfection that a comeback was swiftly completed.
This season’s final day will see either Guardiola and Klopp win the title, but the Spaniard has also won a title on the final day away from Merseyside. In the 2008/09 season at Barcelona, where the club won absolutely everything, they went into the final day just two points clear of Real Madrid after picking up just one point in three games. Fighting on all fronts had clearly taken it out of that great Barca side, but they were let off the hook as they picked up the point they needed away at Deportivo La Coruna.
Real Madrid could and arguably should have won the title that year but they capitulated, and followed up an unbeaten run of 18 league games by ending the season with five league defeats on the spin, including a 6-2 hammering by Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu. A win on the final day would have taken them level on points, but that heavy defeat meant the goal difference was well in Guardiola’s favour.
He only failed to win the title once at Barcelona, when Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid hit 100 points, while at Bayern Munich he won the title every season by ten points or more - such was his dominance. That statistic also means that only three managers have managed to deny Guardiola the league title across his career.
Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte (in Guardiola’s first season in England), and Jurgen Klopp. The German’s achievement is right up there with Mourinho’s as he won a title against a Pep Guardiola side at their peak - and he did it without Cristiano Ronaldo.
But importantly for this weekend, both Guardiola and Manchester City have never lost a title on the final day. They always get the job done under testing circumstances and history dictates that they will be the ones celebrating on Sunday.
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