City seeking a century as Swans hope for a miracle

Reuters
While Liverpool and Chelsea contend for the one remaining UEFA Champions League spot, Swansea fans are steeling themselves for the most deflating of afternoons.
Reuters
AFP

Manchester City’s Yaya Toure greets teammates Vincent Kompany (right), Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva after playing his final English Premier League home game, against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Only the most preposterous turnaround can spare Swansea City from relegation on the final Sunday of the English Premier League season but if any team can help fashion this mission improbable, it is Pep Guardiola’s dazzling Manchester City.

While Liverpool and Chelsea contend for the one remaining UEFA Champions League spot, Swansea fans are steeling themselves for the most deflating of afternoons at the other end of the table.

For only if the Welsh outfit can beat already-relegated Stoke City at the Liberty Stadium and champion City thrashes Southampton at St Mary’s to effect a 10-goal swing will the Saints tumble out of the top flight instead of the Swans.

It remains highly unlikely but because rampant City is seeking to underline its record-shredding campaign with a landmark century of points, few Southampton or Swansea fans can quite convince themselves it is over yet.

“We have to be careful. If there is one team in this league who have the capability of scoring a lot of goals, it’s Man City,” warned Southampton manager Mark Hughes.

Hughes should know. Managing Stoke earlier this season, he saw City rain in 7 goals — 1 of 14 times Guardiola’s side has scored 4 or more in all competitions this term.

Getting the 3 points on Sunday to finish with exactly 100 clearly means a good deal to the Spaniard, who noted after City’s 3-1 steamrollering of Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday that it would “finish this almost perfect season.”

Guardiola talked again of “trying to write a new page” in English football to emulate the Liverpool side of the late 1970s and 1980s and Manchester United in the 1990s.

“To be the best, to be alongside those teams, we have to win more,” he added. “But (this season) we’ve done better than the others, we cannot deny.”

Indeed, a win at Southampton would make City’s league season, statistically at least, the finest-ever in the English top-flight.

Bob Paisley’s 1978-79 Liverpool side would have ended up with 98 if 3 points, rather than 2, for a win had been employed then. Yet that season was over 42 games not 38 so, by any yardstick, City has been truly exceptional.

Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal can only hope the champion has one more exceptional 90 minutes in it. “Well, at this moment we’re not relegated,” he shrugged. “We can’t depend on ourselves and we don’t like that. We must win the game and hope for a miracle to happen.”

The “miracle” would not be City running riot, it would be Swansea, without a league goal in over 6-1/4 hours, actually rousing itself to hammer Stoke.

In the battle to seal the final top-4 spot alongside City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, it’s advantage Liverpool, which needs just a point at home to Brighton to foil Chelsea.

The only way the Londoners can nick the fourth spot is by winning at Newcastle United and hope Liverpool, perhaps distracted by the upcoming UCL final, loses its first league game at Anfield all season.

For the best final day party look no further than Huddersfield Town, where fans will be celebrating the club’s great escape after back-to-back draws at City and Chelsea salvaged its top-flight place.

Now safe, Dave Wagner’s men will look to send Arsene Wenger off into the EPL sunset without the farewell win his 22 years at Arsenal surely demand.


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