Will these scenes of Man City lifting the Premiership trophy be replicated at the end of Sunday? Most likely it will. - AFP
TOMORROW’S the day of reckoning. The rigmarole of the last nine months will come to a head in the Premier League with the season’s last round of fixtures played out simultaneously across England.
But despite all the talk since Manchester City saw off Aston Villa in midweek with a second-half blitz that left them on the threshold of reclaiming the title, nothing has been won yet. And it is for that reason that no celebrations (at least in the blue half of the city) are being had.
However, that could change, as many expect, on Sunday if Manuel Pellegrini leads the Citizens to victory over West Ham. If that were the case, it would not matter what Liverpool do at Anfield – the biggest prize in English football would be back in City for a second time in three years.
But Liverpool could still win the title, albeit, with an outside chance. This permutation calls for a West Ham triumph over City and a home win for Liverpool over visiting Newcastle.
Nonetheless, a notable to emerge from the Etihad this week was not only the demolition of Villa, but also Pellegrini’s astute leadership coming to the fore yet again. It is something a few of the rival managers could learn a thing or two from, particularly one from Merseyside and another from west London.
The Chilean mastermind, who already has the League Cup etched on his curriculum vitae in his first season in the Premier League, did not go about boasting that they would win the title. Rather, he said that they could speak about winning the crown if they win their last game.
This is in stark contrast to all the noise that came from Anfield last month when they held the initiative or Chelsea writing off their chances when there were still seven or eight matches to go, and everything still to play for.
The odds are on City adding West Ham to the list of fallen visitors to the Etihad. The rationale behind is quite simple, in that the Citizens are in a patch of really good form. With so much riding on the outcome, they might never live it down if they let it slip now – as others did not so long ago.
Sergio Aquero has been ruled out with injury, but the composition of the side in the second half against Villa is probably what Pellegrini will start with on Sunday.
The inclusion here of Edin Dzeko up front and with David Silva and Yaya Toure providing support from the middle, West Ham may well need to pull into Manchester with more than just two buses.
Villa’s resistance at the Etihad lasted just over an hour and it was a gallant effort. But in the end the quality of the players in the two sides became evident and that is what made the difference.
The Hammers, one suspects, will employ a similar approach, which would mean that Pellegrini might have to rely on getting his tactics spot-on again.
He will, like the rest of City’s fans, hope that they can break through much earlier and save themselves running the risk of getting high blood pressure again.
Given the circumstances, City need just a draw to secure the crown – but that would be without Liverpool scoring in the region of a dozen goals against the Magpies. Should things unfold as expected then all the ups and downs that City have been through this season, will have been worth it.
Shaun Orange thinks City will beat the Hammers, but only after a tough encounter – and then joyously lift the Premiership trophy.