Monday 19 March 2018

Title race not over yet – anything can happen, as Michael Thomas proved

Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's third goal with his team-mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's third goal with his team-mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Alan Hansen

The race for the Premier League title is now a straight fight between Manchester City and Liverpool – and I know from personal experience that it's never over until it's over.

In 1989 we faced Arsenal on the final day of the season with a phenomenal home record and I think even our opponents did not believe with any conviction they could win the title at Anfield.

We had just won the FA Cup final and were on a real high, while Arsenal had to win 2-0. Most of the country just expected Liverpool to win the league.

What happened was one of the most incredible and dramatic nights of my career. In the last minute Michael Thomas scored the second goal for Arsenal to clinch the title, which just shows there is no such thing as a lost cause.

It is undoubtedly a two-horse race now after Chelsea could only draw against Norwich City and you would have to say Manchester City are the red-hot favourites.

They have got two massively winnable home games against Aston Villa and West Ham and the smart money is on Manuel Pellegrini to lift his first title in English football. It all looks so straightforward for them and a second title in three years is definitely theirs to lose.


But you only have to look at that remarkable night on Merseyside 25 years ago to realise that anything can happen. Sergio Aguero's goal in the 95th minute for City two years ago was another classic example that the title is never yours until the medal is in your hands. One minute you can be down and out and then it can all swing around in seconds and you are back in pole position.

Liverpool face Crystal Palace tonight ultimately needing a win to maintain the pressure on City. Quite simply, Brendan Rodgers' side have got to remove any doubts and believe they can still win the league.

If there are any remote thoughts that the race is over, and that City will easily win both their games, Liverpool will fall short. They have got to be fired up and must attack this crucial game with a positive attitude because as City showed against Everton, there is always a chance of conceding when you defend as Pellegrini's men did then.

City are susceptible to conceding goals and that should provide Liverpool with the inspiration that this year will go to the wire. Any ardent City supporter would agree that City's weakness is their defence; it has been the same story all season. Just look at the goal they conceded on Saturday, when Romelu Lukaku was allowed to score. It was defensive suicide.

Martin Demichelis has had a good five or six weeks but on the left side they play Gael Clichy one week and Aleksandar Kolarov the next. There is no continuity there at all. Most other teams going for the title would just tighten up when they have got a 3-1 lead but, with City, there is always a sense that they will concede again.

That vulnerability should give Liverpool hope that they can still take it to the final day, though obviously a win at Selhurst Park is imperative first. They need to respond positively to the defeat by Chelsea and ensure there are some nerves at the Etihad Stadium when City face Villa on Wednesday night.

All the teams City and Liverpool are playing are safe but they will still want to go down in history as the teams that stopped their opponents from winning the title.

Jose Mourinho has got some work to do this summer. Chelsea have a phenomenal record against the top four clubs but all season they have struggled to put away to the lesser teams.

Mourinho has had a choice of three centre-forwards all season and not one of them has ever looked like being the answer. If he had had a prolific striker it might have been a different season but it does not take a genius to work out where the problems are.

Their style of play is not suited to winning a 38-game league and he has to redefine the structure of his team ahead of next season.

Liverpool and City, however, blow the lesser teams away quite easily and that is why they are now heading into the final week of the season with a chance.

All eyes will be on Liverpool's game at Palace and they must not give up hope. Win there, and you just never know what might happen. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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