It’s Not How You Start, But How You Finish: The Permutations of the Final Day of the Premier League Campaign

Southampton's St Mary's Football Stadium
Credit: By David Ingham from Bury, Lancashire, England via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

On the face of it, the 2017/18 Premier League campaign appears to be done and dusted: Manchester City are champions, Manchester United will finish second and, barring a miracle, Swansea will join West Brom and Stoke in being relegated to the second tier.

Of course, as we know, miracles do tend to happen in football.

But there’s much more to follow, too, with pressure mounting on Liverpool to get a result against Brighton with Chelsea snapping at their heels, and there will be a certain frisson on the south coast too with Southampton needing to avoid a heavy defeat against a team that have made resounding victories their modus operandi this term, Man City.

And supporters of mid-table sides shouldn’t be resting on their laurels either, with millions in prize money up for grabs just for leaping two or three places up the league table.

So despite what the table suggests, there is plenty to play for as the Premier League reaches its conclusion this Sunday.

Pep Eyes Slice of History

2017/18 League Table

Manchester City are one win away from the magic 100 point mark, which would be the first time in Premier League history that the ton has been brought up in a 38-game season.

Pep Guardiola’s men will also break a top-flight record that dates back to the 1960s if they can wrap up a 32nd league victory of the campaign on Sunday.

So there’s plenty of motivation for them, and they will want to ensure they give a decent account of themselves given that their opponents on Sunday, Southampton, are embroiled in the relegation dogfight.

City to win by two or more goals can be backed at 11/10, and that looks to be a fantastic price.

Expect United to Perform for Sir Alex

There was a huge outpouring of emotion when it was revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson was critically ill after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

The latest news coming from his family suggests he is making a recovery, and Jose Mourinho – a man who understands the importance of such things – will instruct his United players to put on a great show on Sunday for their legendary former manager, who may just be watching from his hospital bed.

This will also be the season’s sign-off for Old Trafford, and you would expect the home fans to make plenty of noise. Watford, the visitors, don’t exactly look well placed to poop the party having won just one of their last eight. They, spiritually if not physically, are already on the beach.

And so United to win by two or more goals at 19/20 looks a smart play.

Reds to Slaughter Seagulls

Supporters at AnfieldIt is almost unfathomable that Liverpool will throw away fourth place from here.

They need just one point to secure the last remaining Champions League place, and on home soil against a Brighton side on a high after securing their top flight status we would expect the Reds to enjoy a heavy victory.

The Seagulls have done unbelievably well this term, and the bulk of the credit should go to Chris Hughton, a quiet and unassuming sort who rarely gets the credit he deserves. But, the celebrations that greeted their 1-0 win over Manchester United may just have taken something out of the players, who will now be reflecting on a job well done.

Liverpool have big fish to fry on the horizon in the form of the Champions League final, but Jurgen Klopp will be desperate for his side to sign off in style here. The Reds record at Anfield – W11 D7 L0, with eleven clean sheets – suggests they should enjoy themselves against the south coast outfit.

You could do a lot worse than backing Liverpool to win to nil at 20/21.

Middling Matters

Crystal Palace BadgeYou might think there’s little to play for when safely in mid-table, but even mega-rich footballers have personal pride and, cynically, may be eyeing a better contract elsewhere which a strong showing on Sunday will certainly help to secure.

And there’s the not-inconsequential matter of prize money to consider. The team that finishes tenth, for example, earns £11 million more than the side in fourteenth. That’s not a huge amount of money in football these days, but still it’s not to be sniffed at.

Of those involved, it is hard to look past Crystal Palace to secure that tenth spot – an almost unbelievable achievement that they lost seven in a row at the start of the campaign and failed to score a single goal. Credit must go to Roy Hodgson, who will want his side to finish with a flourish at Selhurst Park.

Opponents West Brom have been excellent under Darren Moore, but they may find these high flying Eagles difficult to shoot down.

The £65 Million Game

The death knell has already sounded for Swansea, and yet the maths don’t quite add up.

To stay up, they will need to hammer a Stoke side that has already been relegated, and hope that Manchester City can rout Southampton.

Neither of those scenarios are wholly ridiculous, although it is hard to see where Swansea’s goals will come from in any such victory.

Swansea 4-0 Stoke, Southampton 0-6 Manchester City….it’s fanciful at best, but it would keep the Swans up. If you fancy that happening, you can put your money where your mouth is by backing Southampton to go down at 100/1!