Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester City: Who will be the eventual winners in the race for the Premier League title?

It is the final furlong of a thrilling season but of the three runners left in contention who is in best shape to take first prize? Tim Rich sifts the evidence

LIVERPOOL

Why they might win it...

In John W Henry’s country they say you require one quality to reach the White House – “The Big Mo”, or what we call momentum. More than any of their rivals, Liverpool have it. They are driving towards their 19th league title with the force and inevitability of an avalanche. No team in Europe is in better form – Liverpool have won their last 10 games – and they have the easiest final day of the season. If you wanted to pick any team to play at home to win the title, you would choose a Newcastle side that is disintegrating by the week and has not won at Anfield in 20 years. Talk of the psychological hurdles Liverpool face is overdone. One by one, they have cleared them like an Aintree winner – Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham, the two Manchester clubs have been beaten by a collective scoreline of 19-3 since the turn of the year. On Sunday they face Norwich, a team against whom they have scored 18 times in their previous four league games. A quarter of a century after Hillsborough, there is a sense of destiny and romance about Liverpool that neither of their rivals possesses. Liverpool not only have the will to win, they are being willed to win all across the country.

Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard celebrate against Manchester City on Sunday Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard celebrate against Manchester City on Sunday  

And why they might not...

“The expectation will suffocate them, they won’t be able to breathe,” George Graham told his Arsenal players before they faced Liverpool at Anfield needing to win by two clear goals to take the title. And as everyone who has ever read Fever Pitch knows, that is precisely what they did. The passion of a crowd is a two-edged weapon. Before Chelsea faced Bayern Munich in the European Cup final, Kenny Dalglish pointed out that it was a huge disadvantage to the Germans that it was being staged at the Allianz Arena. Only in their own ground, with pressure pouring down from the stands, would Bayern have screwed up that penalty shoot-out. Curiously, in the 1984 final against Liverpool, Roma did exactly the same.

There are only three members of Brendan Rodgers’ squad who know what it is to win a Premier League, while Jordan Henderson’s three-match ban is a serious blow. There will be a twist in Liverpool’s tale and it is likely to come at an unexpected place. Liverpool’s record at Crystal Palace is appalling – they have failed to win any of their last four fixtures at Selhurst Park. Tony Pulis, who never lost a home League game to Liverpool at Stoke, has already derailed Chelsea. What he has done once, he can do again.

GUIDE: Liverpool's remaining fixtures

 

CHELSEA

Why they might win it...

It used to be said that if you could pick any batsman to play for your life, you would choose Geoff Boycott. He may be as self-obsessed and individualistic as the great Yorkshireman, but if you had to choose any manager to set up a team to get a result for your life, it would be Jose Mourinho. Of the three managers left in the title race, Mourinho – in terms of tactics and trophies – is clearly superior to Brendan Rodgers or Manuel Pellegrini, as anyone who saw Chelsea overcoming Liverpool at Stamford Bridge plus City home and away will testify.

If Chelsea win their remaining four games – in which they are at home to Norwich and Sunderland – they will be champions if City make any slip-up. Everything pivots on Chelsea’s journey to Anfield. Naturally, Mourinho will be reminded of the European Cup semi-final he lost there to Luis Garcia’s “ghost goal”, but then he was playing a Liverpool managed by Rafael Benitez that, once ahead, was hard to break down. Liverpool under Rodgers, a man who once worked for Mourinho, appear to know only one way to play and no team that has won a European Cup on Bayern Munich’s own ground is going to be intimidated.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho (Reuters)

And why they might not...

Campaigns on two fronts rarely work and Chelsea are the only one of the three for whom the Premier League is not the season’s ultimate prize. In the last 10 years, seven English clubs have reached a European Cup final but only Manchester United have done so while winning the Premier League – and they did not do so while attempting to come from behind. In 2011, United began the semi-finals six points clear. In 2009 they were three points clear of Liverpool but with a game in hand. Their lead was four points in 2008. Chelsea will have to endure the intense atmosphere of the Vicente Calderon on the Tuesday before going to Anfield. Their record is not encouraging. Of the 10 away games Chelsea have played before or after Champions League fixtures this season, they have lost five and drawn one.

In many ways, this is a perfect Mourinho campaign. Only three teams have won the Premier League without scoring the most goals and two of them have been Chelsea sides managed by him. However, this time the lack of goals might tell. It was September when Liverpool last failed to score at Anfield and Mourinho is likely to need at least two goals from somewhere.

GUIDE: Chelsea's remaining fixtures

 

MANCHESTER CITY

Why they might win it...

In horse racing terms, you can make a case for Manchester City by stating they have done the course and distance. In football commentary terms you can just scream “Aguerroooooo” very loudly into a microphone. It is that May day in 2012 which provides the core of Manchester City’s belief that they can still win the title.

The revival that won them the title began with six games remaining. They have six games to go now. In 2012, they were five points behind Manchester United. They are currently seven adrift of Liverpool with two games in hand. Pellegrini’s side is actually in a better position than Roberto Mancini’s was.

If Liverpool and Chelsea draw when they meet at Anfield on Sunday week and cut each other’s throats – to quote one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s favourite phrases – the way is open once more for the Premier League’s slickest machine. That they have six games rather than four gives Manchester City less of a margin of error but can you seriously see them not beating Sunderland, West Bromwich, Aston Villa and West Ham at the Etihad Stadium? Twelve points are already guaranteed.

City defender Vincent Kompany City defender Vincent Kompany (AP)

And why they might not...

If Pellegrini’s side do not take the title, it will be because of their form away from Manchester. Their two remaining away games look awkward and dangerous. They have managed one win in three Premier League games at Selhurst Park and two in 16 at Goodison. Everton have lost once at home all season, and that to Sunderland when they were reduced to 10 men.

However, although City have the strongest squad of the three, it seems to be seizing up. Vincent Kompany, Pellegrini’s one world-class defender, was not fully fit against Liverpool while the loss of Yaya Touré deprived them not just of their best midfielder but their leading goalscorer. Sergio Aguero has played a mere hour and half of football in 2014. The Abu Dhabi money may have been lavished on this squad, but when it comes to the climax its three key members cannot be relied on.

They also have the aftermath of defeat to live down, the knowledge that, had they avoided losing at Anfield on Sunday and held out for a dozen more minutes, they would still be in charge of their own destiny. At Villarreal and Real Madrid, Pellegrini was known for good second-place finishes. This may be a stitch in the same pattern.

GUIDE: Manchester City's remaining fixtures

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?