Premier League title race: If Manchester City gift Liverpool the title they will join the list of sporting calamities

If they do not take a point at home to West Ham to secure the Premier League title, they will join the list of the biggest chokers in sport

On Merseyside they will dredge up all the old stories. How Bayern Munich printed travel information for the 1981 European Cup final before they blew the semi-final against Liverpool.

Of how Jean van der Velde, needing only a double bogie to win the Open at Carnoustie, found himself ankle deep in water. Those with a deep sense of history might like to mention the Wimbledon semi-finals of 1927 when Bill Tilden found himself winning 6-2, 6-2, 5-1 and, 30-0 up, still failed to make the final.

They are likely to be straws in the wind. If Manchester City do not take a point at home to West Ham to secure the Premier League title, they will join Van der Velde, Tilden and various South African cricket teams on the list of the biggest chokers in sport.

The message from the City dressing room in the wake of Wednesday night's 4-0 win over Aston Villa was uncompromising. The celebrations could wait until the final whistle on Sunday. The memories of Queen's Park Rangers were altogether too fresh.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini urges his troops on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini urges his troops on  

That match is depicted on photographs 20 feet high on the Etihad Stadium walls. Had Sergio Aguero not scored with the final kick of the season to win it 3-2, that match and its images would have been buried into the deepest recesses of the club. Nobody would ever have talked of it.

The image Andrea Pirlo painted of the Milan dressing room after they squandered a 3-0 lead to Liverpool in the Champions League final would have been theirs. "Insomnia, rage, depression, a sense of nothingness. I no longer felt like a footballer, and that was devastating enough," wrote Pirlo in his autobiography. "Worse, I no longer felt like a man."

Pablo Zabaleta knows how close Manchester City came to being infected with what Pirlo called "Istanbul syndrome". It is why he claimed the club could not relax, even at this late stage.

"Every single player knows we have done nothing yet," said the Argentine defender. "Most of our players have been here for more than two years so we have experienced that final game against Queen's Park Rangers and don't want it again. The inspiration is that we know we are 90 minutes from another title."

 

West Ham, however, are slightly different from Queen's Park Rangers. In May 2012, Mark Hughes's side came to Manchester knowing that if they lost and Bolton won, they would be relegated. City had to match Manchester United's result at Sunderland. Here, Manuel Pellegrini's side can afford to drop two points and still win it on goal difference.

Nevertheless, West Ham sides with nothing to play for have twice denied Manchester United league titles. On the final day of the 1994-95 season, Alex Ferguson observed: "I cannot believe that this 5ft 5in winger [Michael Hughes] could cut in across our defence and side-foot the ball home."

The United manager was rather less philosophical three years earlier when he had stood in the press room at Upton Park and shouted that it was "obscene" that an already-relegated West Ham should have denied his team a title that had been so obviously theirs.

Liverpool's biggest hope might be the crowd, not their own but Manchester City's. The Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night was a strange place.

It was not full because a man threatening to hurl himself from a motorway bridge had paralysed Manchester's traffic and those who made it there were as nervous and anxious as Liverpool's fans had been at Anfield when the usual early knockout blow failed to arrive against Chelsea.

By the interval, City had still not broken down Aston Villa and the players walked off not to boos but to shakes of the head.

"We were talking about this at half time," said Zabaleta. "We needed to score to be a little bit calm and to calm the fans. When you are in that situation you can be a little nervous but the manager told us to keep moving the ball and we would get one chance to score – and that's how it was.

"We never felt nervous. Passion was the key to winning that game. We knew Aston Villa were a very disciplined team and that they would defend with players behind the ball and were doing a very good job tactically."

He expects West Ham to do the same on Sunday and he expects Pellegrini to respond in the same way, ordering his full-backs to attack from the flanks – a move that triggered the first and decisive goal on Wednesday night.

They probably need only one against a side that has never recorded a league victory at the Etihad Stadium but, until it arrives, they will dream on Merseyside about Van der Velde, Bill Tilden and all the other defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone