STAR PREVIEW: Premier League Final Day

After 6,576 hours, 274 days, 39 weeks, 37 games, and two goal-line decisions which total less than 10 centimeters, the Premier League’s title race comes to its final conclusion. The calculation is mightily simple; A win for Manchester City and they retain their title, regardless of what Liverpool do against Wolves. Here’s to one last 90 minutes.

LIVERPOOL v WOLVES

‘A week is a long time in football’ is a phrase that is fast being made redundant. This is 2019, when entire years can be fit into just days, and when you can have three of the most exciting finishes of the season – or perhaps recent years – in a row, then you know that anything and everything can change.

Liverpool, no matter what happens, already have what is arguably a more remarkable turnaround in the bag – of course you now know that I am referring to their amazing 4-0 win against Barcelona that has sent them to a second consecutive Champions League final, and one which could have an effect on their Premier League finale.

Whether Liverpool end up with two, one trophy, or none, nobody can accuse them of not fighting until the end and what was always likely to be a ferocious atmosphere at Anfield will be infernal now they’ve had the famous European comeback. That performance was out of this world, and perhaps importantly, arguably the best of the season before what’s arguably now their second most important game.

A scrappy 3-2 win against Newcastle when the winning goal came from a dubiously awared free-kick was the sort of performance that does seal titles but it would not have been good enough against Wolves and such a dominant performance when every single player had an outstanding game is the perfect preparation.

However, the challenge of Wolves really shouldn’t be underestimated. Nuno’s side have had a truly remarkable season that somehow didn’t end in an FA Cup final appearance and that should give them extra motivation to target this game as a cup final.

Their record against the Top 6 sides is phenomenal. Following Arsenal and Chelsea’s qualifications for the Europa League, Wolves have now beaten each of the four finalists for the two Big European competitions, a stunning stat for a side that was in League One not so long ago.

They have taken a point against Manchester City here in the League and also beaten Chelsea at Molineux; On the road they have taken points from Arsenal and Chelsea whilst beating Tottenham. Indeed, they drew with United when Jose was still in charge at Old Trafford and they took advantage of Liverpool’s changed side to start their FA Cup run, which also involved them beating – you guessed it – Manchester United in their quarter-final.

Wolves are on a three match winning run to end the season, and they were deeply impressive when beating Arsenal and deserved winners against Watford (2-1, but performed better than that on xG) and Fulham (1-0).

They have the quality upfront in Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota to test Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk, whilst Jonny and Matt Doherty have stepped up when playing top opposition all season to boot.

Liverpool v Wolves
Premier League
15:00 Sky Sports Premier League / Sky Sports Ultra HD

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
JAN 2019 FA CUP Wolves 2-1 Liverpool
DEC 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Wolves 0-2 Liverpool
JAN 2017 FA CUP Liverpool 1-2 Wolves
JAN 2012 PREMIER LEAGUE Wolves 0-3 Liverpool
SEP 2011 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 2-1 Wolves
JAN 2011 PREMIER LEAGUE Wolves 0-3 Liverpool
DEC 2010 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 0-1 Wolves
JAN 2010 PREMIER LEAGUE Wolves 0-0 Liverpool
DEC 2009 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 2-0 Wolves
MAR 2004 PREMIERSHIP Liverpool 1-0 Wolves
JAN 2004 PREMIERSHIP Wolves 1-1 Liverpool

*All matches in 21st Century

Liverpool’s early need for a goal means the tactical dynamic is set in the visitors favour and what’s more they’ve had a full week’s rest with a fully fit squad, so it’s impossible to agree with the current match odds. Take them on a two goal handicap, and back them to cause a small upset to boot.


BRIGHTON v MANCHESTER CITY

Just one last game separates Pep Guardiola and Manchester City from becoming the first side to retain the title since their City rivals United won three on the bounce, and they can seal it with victory at Brighton.

In many ways, this title will be even more remarkable than last season, when they won 100 points. They have been pushed all the way by Liverpool and in the process will end the season with at least 95 points, meaning that City have taken 195 points out of the last 228 available domestically, a stratospheric number.

For much of this season they have played with the same elan as they did last year, but when the chips have been down they’ve shown as much mental steel as any title winner. Recently they’ve had to fight really hard on more than one occasion – the chips were down against Tottenham, Burnley, and Leicester on Monday, but they found their way to three 1-0 wins and if things get tight then Guardiola’s men have the quality and steel to grind their way to the title here.

Things are never easy at this stage of the season but Brighton might well represent less of a threat to their title chances than Tottenham, Burnley or Leicester. All three of those clubs (fourth, ninth, and 15th) are ahead of Brighton as it stands and Spurs and Leicester do carry a genuine break threat too, whilst Burnley’s defensive prowess can present a challenge for even the best attacking sides.

Brighton, who have been safe for a week now, have barely managed to raise a gallop for the past few weeks, and before their 1-1 draw against Arsenal last week they’d had eight shots on target in their last eight games, with just one goal in that time. That’s been a theme of the season – they’re 20th in the shots on target table, and last week their goal did come from a penalty when they didn’t get much of the ball.

City will dominate possession and look to give one of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane or Bernardo Silva a chance to get the all-important first goal, and they should be able to break down the resistance of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, along with goalkeeper Mat Ryan, given enough time.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Man City
Premier League
15:00 Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Ultra HD

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
APR 2019 FA CUP Manchester City 1-0 Brighton
SEP 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester City 2-0 Brighton
MAY 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester City 3-1 Brighton
AUG 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Brighton 0-2 Manchester City
SEP 2008 CARLING CUP Brighton 2-2 Manchester City

City have won six consecutive Premier League away games since a 2-1 loss at Newcastle in January and in eight home games this year Brighton have mustered just five points, three coming thanks to a nervy 1-0 success over Huddersfield. City have won 11 of their last 16 games by a 1, 2 or 3-0 score line and something similar can deliver the Premier League crown.


RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK WOLVES (+2) 5 pts at 11/10 with starsports.bet
BACK WOLVES/DRAW 2 pts at 11/4 with starsports.bet
BACK MAN CITY 1-0 1 pt at 17/2 with starsports.bet
BACK MAN CITY 2-0 2 pts at 11/2 with starsports.bet


PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 237.17 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post, Byron Classic)