thumbnail Hello,

The title, Champions League places and relegation are all to be decided on 'Super Sunday' in what has been a rollercoaster season that will live long in the memory

COMMENT
By Greg Stobart | Northern Correspondent

Never before in the Premier League era has there been so much to play for heading into the last day of the season. The three big issues - the title, relegation and Champions League qualification - are still up for grabs on what promises to be the best, most dramatic final Sunday ever.

The 2011-12 campaign is certainly up there as one of the greatest in the history of the Premier League but there are more twists and turns to come as we prepare for a perfect finale after nine months of jaw-dropping goals, thumping victories and stunning comebacks.

The 37 games already played this season become meaningless as it boils down to the last 90 minutes of a tough slog of a season. The repercussions on such a pivotal day could be widespread for the teams involved in their mini ‘cup finals’, with one kick of the ball potentially changing a club’s outlook for years to come.

CITY ON THE BRINK


1. Man City
2. Man United
Played

37
37
Points

86
86
GD

+63
+55
At the summit of the Premier League, the Manchester City supporters will turn up for their side’s clash with QPR anticipating an end to 44 years of hurt, more than four decades in the shadow of their local rivals.

Victory for Roberto Mancini’s men will confirm a changing of the guard in Manchester, assert City as the cream of the country and not the “noisy neighbours” they were once famously tagged by Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scot has performed wonders on a limited budget under the Glazer ownership but will fear being left in City's slipstream after throwing away an eight-point lead at the top of the table.

The first title is always the hardest to win and for this City squad and the club’s Abu Dhabi owners, it will be seen not as the end goal but as the start of their march towards world domination. A dynasty awaits, an all-conquering era both domestically and in Europe.

City fans, however, are natural pessimists. With only goal difference separating the sides, they will fear catastrophe: if they drop points and United better their result up at Sunderland, the title will go to Old Trafford for the 20th time. The Premier League have confirmed that there is no helicopter on standby but they have cut two sets of winners’ medals. You can never be sure in this league, certainly not this season. There is no such thing as a coronation.

Mark Hughes, the former United striker and ex-City boss who was sacked in December 2009, will be doing his utmost to spoil the party at the Etihad Stadium.

QPR need a point to guarantee their Premier League status, to avoid relegation and a subsequent financial meltdown. A number of Rangers players are on huge salaries with no relegation clauses, meaning the Londoners face financial catastrophe if they fail to beat the drop.

THE RACE FOR TOP FOUR


3. Arsenal
4. Tottenham
5. Newcastle
Played

37
37
37
Points

67
66
65
GD

+24
+23
+7
While Hughes stalks the touchline urging an heroic defensive effort from his players, at least one member of his backroom staff will have an ear tuned in to events at the Britannia Stadium.

Whether they survive or not, Bolton are in a better position than most to put the season into perspective after the terrifying but uplifting tale of Fabrice Muamba, who quite literally fought back from the dead after collapsing at White Hart Lane in March.

It would be flippant to draw a parallel between such a serious incident and Bolton’s season, but Owen Coyle will want the players and supporters to draw on the spirit shown during that traumatic period.

Nothing less than a win will do for Bolton, who travel to Stoke sitting third-from-bottom in the table, two points behind QPR. With debts of £110 million and 11 players out of contract in the summer, Sunday could mark a turning point in Wanderers’ medium-term future.

The next three years for Arsenal could also hinge on their result against West Brom at the Hawthorns. The Gunners will guarantee Champions League football for next season with a win, a situation that will set them up to spend in the transfer market and will improve their chances of keeping Robin van Persie at the Emirates Stadium.

Should they slip up and drop points, Arsenal are likely to find themselves finishing fourth behind rivals Tottenham, possibly worse depending on Newcastle’s result at Everton.

THE BATTLE TO AVOID THE DROP


17. QPR
----------------------
18. Bolton
Played

37
-------
37
Points

37
-------
35
GD

-22
----
-31
The club that finishes fourth will, of course, be left sweating on the result of Chelsea’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 19. If the Blues win, they will be assured a spot in Europe’s elite competition next term at the expense of the fourth-placed team in the Premier League.

If Arsenal miss out on the Champions League, a £35m hole will appear in the accounts at a club where the fans pay the highest ticket prices in the country and are already disillusioned by a perceived lack of ambition. Van Persie would surely resolve to leave the club while moves for transfer targets such as Yann M’Vila could be jeopardised.

But finishing third is equally as important for Tottenham if they are to keep their best players, with prized assets Gareth Bale and Luka Modric being linked with summer transfers. Both players have spoken of their desire to play regularly in the Champions League and are targets for the elite clubs in England and Spain.

Spurs once held a 10-point lead over Arsenal but are now relying on a home victory over Fulham and a slip-up from their north London rivals in a final day that has echoes of ‘Lasagnegate’ in 2006.

But given the apparent inability of any team to secure a third or fourth spot, Newcastle will fancy their chances of sneaking into the top four with a win at Goodison Park. The surprise package this season, Alan Pardew’s side have little to lose but much to gain as they look to establish themselves as regular contenders for European places.

If football is the perfect blend of entertainment and sporting drama, this season has had just about everything you could ask for. And heading into the final straight, the title race, relegation battle and Champions League places are going right to the line.

It is a cliche to describe the Premier League as unpredictable, but it is true. Who could have predicted the returns of Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes? Who foresaw the results achieved by Swansea, Norwich and, more latterly, Wigan? Since when do United beat Arsenal 8-2, or City win 6-1 at Old Trafford?

There have been some outrageous, magical days this season. And, without doubt, there is one more left.

Follow Greg Stobart on

Poll of the day

Which is the greatest Premier League season ever?

Related

From the web