Premier League: Title race to be decided on final day of the season
The title race will be decided on the final day, while Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff will bow out of the Premier League.
Last Updated: 11/05/14 2:04pm
Many of the key issues have already been resolved but the battle to become 2013/14 champions has gone down to the wire and either Manchester City or Liverpool will lift the trophy on Sunday.
Chelsea and Arsenal will join Man City and Liverpool in next season's UEFA Champions League, while either Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester United will play alongside fifth-placed Everton and FA Cup finalists Hull City in the Europa League.
Sunderland's victory over West Bromwich Albion in midweek effectively sealed Norwich's place in the bottom three with already-relegated Fulham and Cardiff, as results over the past week ensured that the climax to the campaign will not be as tense for many teams as had been previously anticipated.
It still promises to a be a gripping finale at many grounds and there is a televised treble as all the action kicks off at 3pm, with Manchester City's game against West Ham United on Sky Sports 1HD, Liverpool's clash with Newcastle United on Sky Sports 2HD and Tottenham versus Aston Villa on Sky Sports 3HD.
One place where the pressure will be intense is the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City take a two-point lead over Liverpool into their game against West Ham. Manuel Pellegrini's men were given their chance to seize the title initiative a fortnight ago when Chelsea won at Anfield and they have taken full advantage. A four-match winning run has taken them to the brink of glory and, after overcoming a nervy start to sweep aside Aston Villa 4-0 on Wednesday, City's goal difference realistically means they need only to avoid defeat to see the job through. Yaya Toure's brilliant solo effort in that match took their league goal tally for the season to 100 and City will be confident of finishing with a flourish. Queens Park Rangers nearly denied City on a dramatic final day two years ago and it is West Ham who will be hoping to spoil the party on Sunday by claiming a surprise win. Sam Allardyce's position has come under scrutiny in recent weeks but the Hammers secured their survival with a 2-0 victory over London rivals Tottenham last weekend to end a run of four defeats and another good performance would stand him in better stead for talks with the owners in the summer.
If West Ham can defy the odds to beat Man City it would open the door for Liverpool to snatch back top spot and clinch their first league crown since 1990. Brendan Rodgers can reflect with pride on this season regardless of what happens against Newcastle but there will be a sense that an opportunity has been missed after an 11-match winning stretch had put them in pole position before the loss to Chelsea. A 3-3 draw at home to Crystal Palace on Monday may prove to be just as costly, though, after conceding three goals in the final 11 minutes to take some of the strain off Man City in the final week. The Reds are one goal short of a league century themselves and need to defeat Newcastle to have any chance of overhauling City at the summit. It is also a big game for Alan Pardew, who saw many Newcastle fans walk out of St James' Park in protest last week following a miserable second half to the season, although his side did manage to beat Cardiff 3-0 to end a run of six straight losses and guarantee a top-half finish.
Tottenham's fight for a top-four spot went down to the last day a year ago but this season they are looking to hang on to sixth place and a Europa League berth. Spurs will have another continental campaign to look forward to if they can bounce back from losing to West Ham and pick up at least a point against Aston Villa, whose Premier League safety was sealed after last Saturday's 3-1 win over Hull and before the defeat by Man City. The encounter pits together two managers whose futures are uncertain, with reports continuing to suggest that Tim Sherwood will be replaced at White Hart Lane and Paul Lambert not sure to stay on at Villa as he awaits an announcement from Randy Lerner on the club's ownership situation.
If Spurs collect at least a point or if Manchester United fail to win at Southampton, it would mean there will be no European football at Old Trafford next season. Ryan Giggs has been in interim charge since the dismissal of David Moyes but is expected to hand the reins over to Louis van Gaal as early as next week. In the meantime, United's title defence will officially come to an end on Sunday and they will hope to produce a performance at St Mary's that signals at a brighter future. Southampton have won their past two matches and will look to round off a successful season with another big scalp before turning their focus to keeping their squad intact, with the likes of Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw linked to United in recent months.
Norwich's relegation has not yet been confirmed but they are three points adrift of safety and their goal difference means they are already doomed ahead of a final home game against Arsenal. The task facing Neil Adams was extremely challenging from the off when he was appointed in place of Chris Hughton with five tough fixtures remaining, and even a battling 0-0 draw against Chelsea last time out proved little help as Sunderland went on to beat West Brom in midweek. Arsenal have clinched a Champions League berth for a 17th consecutive season and could welcome Jack Wilshere back into the fold at Carrow Road, ahead of the FA Cup final against Hull City a week later.
West Brom are the only team who could mathematically be reeled in by Norwich but with their superior goal difference they will be in relaxed mood as they prepare to face Stoke City. Pepe Mel is keen to stay in charge of the Baggies but was disappointed with the display in Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Sunderland and will be wary of a Stoke side set to finish in the top 10 and fresh from a 4-1 victory over Fulham.
The result at the Britannia Stadium sent Fulham down after a 13-year stay in the top flight, and Felix Magath has already started to think about how he can tap into the club's successful youth academy to bring them back up at the first attempt. The Cottagers have confirmed that he will remain at the helm and the supporters will want something to smile about at the end of a dismal season against Crystal Palace, who caused another shock with their stunning comeback at home to Liverpool and have already accrued 44 points to steer well clear of a relegation fight they were widely expected to lose during the first part of the season.
Cardiff will join Fulham in the Championship next season after losing their last two matches and seeing results elsewhere go against them, but they will want to avoid finishing bottom. Chelsea are the visitors to the Welsh capital on Sunday and are destined to finish Jose Mourinho's first season back as manager without any silverware after Man City's win over Villa extinguished their faint title hopes.
The fact that the relegation places have been all-but decided with a game to spare is partly down to an escape from Sunderland which Gus Poyet has described as miraculous. The Black Cats have collected 13 points from their past five games, which have included trips to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, and if they can keep their form going on the final day they will break the 40-point barrier and finish somewhere in mid-table. Swansea are just a point better off than Sunderland ahead of their trip to the Stadium of Light and have this week confirmed the appointment of Garry Monk as permanent manager on a three-year deal.
Everton may have lost out to Arsenal in the race for fourth but they have already amassed a club-record 69 points in the Premier League and will be determined to recover from last weekend's 3-2 defeat by Manchester City to finish in style. Roberto Martinez's men bring the curtain down on their campaign with a journey to the KC Stadium to play Hull City, who have lost three of their last four games and will want to halt the slide ahead of the FA Cup final.