Steven Gerrard hopes to deliver beloved Liverpool the Premier League title by tripping up Man City
So it all boils down to this.
After Liverpool’s second team beat Southampton 2-1 on Tuesday, the Premier League title will reach the final matchday for the ninth time.
The equation is simple: assuming leaders – and favourites – Manchester City don’t lose by a seven-goal margin, Liverpool need to beat Wolves and hope City slip up. The rivals of Pep Guardiola’s team at the Etihad?
Aston Villa, led by Steven Gerrard, probably Liverpool’s greatest player of all time, and led on the pitch by Philippe Coutinho, who became the third most expensive player of all time when he moved to Barcelona after a spell brilliant at Anfield.
There is little motivation, then, for the former Reds stars to upset City and give their beloved former club a major boost in their championship bid.
So, sports mail looks at whether Villa can win the title from Liverpool, looking at both Coutinho’s impressive individual record against the Citizens and the Midlands team’s terrible run against them.
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard (pictured left) is hoping to give his beloved Liverpool the Premier League title by tripping up Manchester City in the last game of the season on Sunday.
Gerrard recently completed the permanent signing of his former Reds teammate Philippe Coutinho (left) and they aim to give Jurgen Klopp’s side a major boost in the title race.
Coutinho the man for big occasions…
Coutinho has five career goals against City; only against the Spanish Sevilla he has scored more, with six.
He clearly loves playing for City and is often the go-to man for big occasions. In the 2013-14 season, another hard-fought title fight between Liverpool and City, he scored in a 2-1 loss at the Etihad before triumphing at Anfield, netting the winner in a 3-2 classic.
They eventually finished second, two points behind their rivals, but the brilliant Brazilian showed that he was capable of performing at the highest level.
The Brazilian star has scored five goals against City – only against Sevilla has he scored more, with six
One of them was a great Liverpool goal in a 3-2 win against City at Anfield in April 2014.
The following year, he scored another Anfield winner against City with a dazzling strike from 25 yards.
In 2015-16 he also scored in the 4-1 thrashing of Etihad, plus the draw in the League Cup final -although he later missed a penalty in that match-.
This season, however, the attacking midfielder has been something of a flat-court bully, scoring twice against relegation-threatened Leeds and once against Southampton, a debut goal against Manchester United, his unique against a great club.
…but Villa haven’t beaten City for eight years
What generates less optimism among Villa fans, however, is their recent record against Guardiola’s men.
Sure, not many tend to consistently beat City, but Villa have only won one of their last 15 games against them, including eight straight defeats in their last eight.
Villa held them to a 0-0 draw in November 2015, but that was their only point in the last 12 meetings, with their last victory coming on September 28, 2013.
Gerrard hopes the star Brazilian midfielder continues his good record against the Citizens
But Villa’s recent record against City is dismal: eight defeats in the last eight and only one victory in 15
At the time, Jason Derulo’s ‘Talk Dirty’ was at the top of the charts and the likes of Antonio Luna, Yacouba Sylla and Jordan Bowery were on the Villa team.
His last win at the Etihad was in September 2012 in the League Cup, and his last Premier League win at City was on 28 April 2007.
Gerrard will say that records are meant to be broken…
And Pep has a 100% record against him.
Guardiola has never tasted defeat against Villa. There are six games, six victories for the Spanish, with comfortable wins at home (2-0 and 3-0).
By contrast, three of the last four games have been close, with just one goal, including the last time the teams met.
At Villa Park in December last year, it required a great individual effort from Ruben Dias, scoring with his weaker foot from outside the box, and a marvelous 10-man counter-attack, finished off with a searing volley from City wizard Bernardo Silva.
Also, City boss Pep Guardiola has a 100 per cent winning record against Villa, six wins out of six.
Ollie Watkins made it 2-1 just after halftime and City had to endure a nervous second period.
City only held on when goalkeeper Ederson made a clever reflex save to deny teenager Carney Chukwuemeka, which will give Gerrard mass belief that they can pull off an upset on Sunday.
With a change from Thursday to Sunday, Coutinho could be rested against Burnley and play his first game as a permanent Villa player on the final day, and what a (second) debut it would be if he could triumph against City once again. .