Man City can celebrate but race for Champions League spots will surely go down to the wire


Rice (left) may be back in action for West Ham soon after an injury lay-off. — AFP

MAN CITY were crowned Premier League champions in midweek as closest challengers and neighbours Man Utd lost 2-1 to Leicester. It was a question of when, and definitely not if, they were going to be crowned kings of English football.

Pep Guardiola’s side have had an outstanding season as they won the League Cup last month, are in their first ever Champions League final where they meet Chelsea and this week clinched their seventh top-flight title triumph, five of those coming in the last decade.

City are no doubt deserving winners and in Guardiola, they have one of the best managers in the world without a shadow of doubt.

City’s league title, Guardiola’s third in five years since arriving at the club, is further confirmation of the strides the club have taken over the past decade.

It will take a lot to eclipse the success of their neighbours Man Utd but City are certainly getting there.

Meanwhile, defending Premier League champions Liverpool boosted their hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League by beating Man Utd on Thursday.

Roberto Firmino’s brace gave the Reds’ hope of Champions League football next season a huge lift as they put pressure firmly back on Chelsea and Leicester in the chase for top four.

Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal on Wednesday opened the door for Liverpool to claim a place in the Champions League spots with four wins from their last four games.

Considering that the Blues and Foxes meet in the league next Tuesday, that means if Jurgen Klopp’s side win their remaining three matches against West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace, they will leapfrog either Chelsea or Leicester in the run-in.

Klopp will take his team to already relegated West Brom tomorrow and know that the Baggies under Sam Allardyce will have nothing to lose and only pride to play for.

But with Liverpool’s form having picked up of late — they are unbeaten in eight league games — the Reds should be a handful for WBA so they could then head to Burnley next week with their tails up.

Mo Salah’s form will have a huge say in Klopp’s quest for Champions League football next season, so expect the brilliant Egyptian to be in the thick of the action at the Hawthorns tomorrow.

West Ham suffered a setback for their Champions League hopes when Everton beat them last Sunday and look to be running out of steam at a crucial time, as they push for an unlikely spot in Europe’s elite competition.

The Hammers, who face Brighton today before meeting doomed West Brom and Southampton in their remaining fixtures, will be boosted by the return of influential youngster Declan Rice.

But David Moyes’ side will do well to qualify for the Europa League, especially having finished in 16th position last term.

Brighton look a tough prospect for West Ham as the Seagulls, on their day, are a joy to watch under young manager Graham Potter.

Tottenham’s loss to Leeds last week all but ended their hopes for a top-four spot.

The Champions League runners-up two seasons ago, Tottenham may end up back in the Europa League or UEFA’s new third-tier tournament — the Conference League — or miss out on European football altogether.

Tottenham welcome Wolves tomorrow and anything less than a win will see the north London outfit miss out on continental football for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

England captain Harry Kane will be eager to be among the goals as he chases the Golden Boot while Welshman Gareth Bale still has plenty to prove to his doubters.

Both players should play important roles tomorrow but Ryan Mason’s side have blown hot and cold this season. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from them.

On paper, they should beat a Wolves side that have struggled to emulate last season’s run.

Tottenham should edge this fixture as they look to bounce back from last week’s woeful performance in Yorkshire.

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