For a while, it has been a case of when rather than if. So, when could Manchester City win the Premier League title?
Pep Guardiola’s side are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League with nine games remaining, with Manchester United in second and Liverpool third, 18 points behind.
With United and Liverpool facing each other on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League, the permutations are complex. However, there is a real chance City could be confirmed as champions at the Etihad against their bitter rivals United on April 7, also live on Sky Sports.
And even if they win it beforehand, United would be giving their rivals a guard of honour.
Read carefully, this gets complicated…
Upcoming fixtures Man City Man Utd Liverpool Stoke A – Mar 12 Liverpool H – Mar 10 Man Utd A – Mar 10 Watford H – Mar 17 Everton A – Mar 31 Swansea H – Mar 31 C Palace A – Mar 31 Man Utd H – Apr 7 Man City A – Apr 7 Everton A – Apr 8 Spurs A – Apr 14 West Brom H – Apr 15 B’mouth H – Apr 14 Scenario 1 – City to win title on March 31 at Everton
If Liverpool beat United on Saturday, then lose to Watford on March 17, provided City beat Stoke this Monday, it will all be set up for City to claim the title at Goodison Park on March 31.
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For that to happen, City of course must beat Everton in that tea-time kick off, and hope Liverpool don’t beat Crystal Palace and United don’t beat Swansea earlier in the day (both also March 31).
This is because, in these scenarios, City would either be 24 or 22 points clear of United with just 21 points up for grabs for Jose Mourinho’s men, and also 21 or 20 points clear of Liverpool with just 18 points for Jurgen Klopp’s side to play for (due to an additional game in March against Watford on the 17th).
Scenario 2 – City to win title on April 7 against Man Utd
City can all-but win the title when they face Everton due to their superior goal difference if Scenario 1 happens BUT Liverpool beat Palace.
The same also happens if United win or draw against Liverpool, but then lose to Swansea. However, in these scenarios, mathematical confirmation would not come until the following week in the Manchester derby.
A more likely scenario comes if United win or draw at Old Trafford this Saturday, then beat Swansea on March 31, then lose at City on April 7.
Scenario 3 – City to win title after Merseyside derby result on April 8
City fans will surely want their side to be playing when the title is confirmed, but they may end up watching the Merseyside derby on April 8 with added interest.
If Liverpool beat United on Saturday, then beat Watford and Palace, they will be 18 points behind City if the leaders also continue winning, against Stoke, Everton and United.
Liverpool go to Everton the day after the Manchester derby, and anything but a victory would hand City the title.
A City title win at Wembley?
If City drop points somewhere along the line, they could end up confirming the title at Wembley against Tottenham on April 14.
All could also change if City’s re-arranged fixture at home to Brighton is scheduled among these games, and the same goes for United’s trip to West Ham, with the dates as yet unknown.
Of course, if City’s lead narrows over the coming weeks through defeat, the celebrations will be put back further. After Spurs on April 14, City’s remaining games are against Swansea (Home – April 22), West Ham (Away – April 29), Huddersfield (Home – May 5), Southampton (Away – May 13) and Brighton (Home – rearranged, TBC)
Guard of honour
For Manchester United, it’s almost a lose-lose situation.
If City win the title at Everton, they will be obliged to give a guard of honour at the Etihad for the new champions the following weekend. If City don’t win the title at Everton, United will likely have to beat City to avoid some huge Etihad celebrations.
United famously gave Chelsea a guard of honour in 2004/05 at Old Trafford, and the favour was returned two years later at Stamford Bridge, as United fielded a weakened side including Fangzhou Dong, Chris Eagles and Kieran Lee after their title win.
Arsenal also lined up for a guard of honour for a United side featuring their former star Robin van Persie in 2013.
Remember, City are likely to receive the Premier League trophy in their final home game, as is tradition. That comes against Huddersfield on the weekend of May 5.
In terms of earliest wins going by games remaining, a City title win at Everton (seven remaining) or at home to United (six remaining) would break a Premier League record.
Man Utd hold that record, sealing the title with five games left in 2000/01, followed by the 2012/13 and 1999/00 United sides and Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles (four games left).