Football Expert & Columnist
No more shocks
Manchester City and Bolton will be cheering the loudest on Sunday, says Jamie Redknapp.
Last Updated: 28/05/12 9:27am
It will be the biggest shock in Premier League history if Manchester City don't beat Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season and go on to win the title.
They're at home in front of their own fans against a team whose away form this season has been pretty abysmal and I just can't see anything other than a Manchester City win, even with QPR fighting for survival.
Mark Hughes returning to the club that sacked him will add a bit more spice to the occasion, but I don't think it will be enough for QPR to get the point they need to all but guarantee their place in the top flight.
It's been the most incredible Premier League season ever, but I just feel City have got too much quality for there to be another twist on the cards. There's a real work ethic about the team again since Carlos Tevez returned to the side in place of Mario Balotelli and they're playing some fantastic football right now.
QPR will make life as difficult as possible and will inevitably pack the midfield. They got beaten 6-1 by Chelsea a couple of weeks ago when they played both Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse up front, so I'd be amazed if they do that this time.
Hughes will be hoping that Samba Diakite will be fit to play after his virus because he could have a key role in trying to contain Yaya Toure. The Mali international has really impressed me since joining QPR in January. He's physically very strong and if he does start I'm sure he'll be asked to get tight to Toure whenever he has the ball.
The question for Roberto Mancini will be where does he play Toure? His brace against Newcastle last week came after he was pushed further up the pitch after Nigel de Jong came on to sit alongside Gareth Barry in the centre of midfield.
It meant Toure was free to roam a little bit more and support the two strikers with great effect, but I'm not sure it would necessarily be the way to start on Sunday for a number of seasons. Firstly, it worked last week because they made the change when Newcastle were a bit fatigued and the game was a little more open, so there was the space there for him to exploit. But QPR will be far more compact.
Secondly, it's sometimes more effective to make a change like that during the game to give the opposition something else to think about, and in truth I don't think this is the kind of game where City will need both Barry and De Jong to protect their back four.
The atmosphere will be electric at the Etihad, I'm sure, but the fans might have to be a bit patient like they were against Newcastle, and if they don't score early on I wouldn't be getting too stressed if I was them. Sometimes you have to grind results out and this might be one of those occasions.
It can be tough playing in these games though, because there are a lot of messages being relayed to the players from the bench about scores elsewhere. That could affect both sets of players, depending on what's going on at the Stadium of Light between Sunderland and Manchester United, and from QPR's perspective between Stoke and Bolton, knowing full-well that if Bolton don't get all three points they'll be staying up.
I played for Liverpool in the game that saw City relegated on the last day of the season back in 1996 and I remember how odd that was. Niall Quinn was on the touchline at 2-2 telling Steve Lomas that other results were going in their favour and that City were safe so he should keep the ball in the corner.
But by the time he got into the corner a goal went in somewhere else and City needed a win to stay up. So the message got passed on to Steve once more and he started off on a Lionel Messi-like run.
Unfortunately for City, Steve was a decent player but he was no Messi and they ended up going down.
So it can all change in the blink of an eyelid and if Bolton are losing heavily at Stoke that could help City because QPR will know they're safe even if they lose.
Bolton will no doubt take some belief from the fact that Wigan went to Stoke on the last day of last season and got the win they needed to stay up and I think Owen Coyle's men can do the same.
It's not going to be easy, but this is no time for regrets and I expect them to go to the Britannia Stadium and really go for it. I was at the Bolton game against Tottenham a couple of weeks ago and they really didn't deserve to lose 4-1 that day.
They'll be gutted that they threw away a two-goal lead with 20 minutes to go last week against West Bromwich Albion, but they have to put that out of their minds. Stoke haven't been great recently and I think Bolton are in with a real chance of getting a result there.
As for Manchester United, they'll be going into their game with Sunderland more in hope than expectation, but they'll be professional as ever.
Again, I'm sure the players will know exactly what is going on at the Etihad and if City are two or three up I can see this game fizzling out.
It's going to be a thrilling end to an incredible season, but while you never say never in football I think it will be City and Bolton cheering the loudest at the final whistle.