Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will happily play a part in crowning Liverpool champions for the first time in 30 years, but only because it would mean his side have taken points from Manchester City on Thursday.
Should Liverpool beat Crystal Palace on Wednesday, City will need to win at Stamford Bridge to keep the title race alive for another week before they host Liverpool on July 2.
Chelsea are in need of the points themselves to cement their place in the top four, with Lampard keen to catch Leicester in third before the season is over.
“I have had absolutely no thought of Liverpool’s situation, it makes no odds to us at all,” said Lampard.
“We respect Liverpool and Manchester City as two fantastic teams, in the last two to three seasons they’ve been dominant, but we can only look at what this match means for us.”
Chelsea famously played a big part on the night Leicester clinched the league in the 2015/16 season, coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Tottenham in what became dubbed “The Battle of the Bridge” after nine of the Spurs side were booked.
“I don’t think you can compare a Chelsea-Tottenham game to potentially stop Tottenham winning the league,” added Lampard on the rivalry between the London sides.
“I am aware of the situation, but I can only focus on us.
“We have a job to do and our job is to go up against one of the best teams in the world over the last few seasons and try to get a result.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Manchester City’s stunning form since the Premier League restart underlines the achievement of his side in building a 20-point gap at the top of the table.
City’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley on Monday, despite making eight changes from the side that beat Arsenal last week, means Liverpool cannot clinch a first league title for 30 years when they host Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Liverpool could still be crowned champions this week though, should City fail to maintain their impressive form away at Chelsea on Thursday.
“What I realised when I watched the game last night is, how is it possibly anybody is 20 points ahead of this team? So we must have done some things pretty well,” Klopp said at his pre-match videoconference.
“City is flying again, two games, eight goals is impressive but should not be a surprise. It’s a quality side.”
Liverpool did not get off to such a strong start as they drew 0-0 at Everton on Sunday to drop points for just the third time in the league this season.
The return of Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson from injury should help Klopp’s men rediscover their rhythm against Palace, who were the last visiting side to win a league match at Anfield, more than three years ago.
“We are fine with our start. Not overly happy but it would be cool if we just play our game,” added Klopp.
“If we win, all the other teams can do what they want, they cannot catch us. We have to not think too much about it.”
Should both Liverpool and City win this midweek, then the Reds’ next chance to seal the title would come when they face Pep Guardiola’s men on July 2.
That match is due to be played at City’s Etihad Stadium but could yet be switched to a neutral venue over fears fans might congregate.
However, given that this was not the case for the Merseyside derby at Everton’s Goodison Park on Sunday, Klopp believes there should be no problem for the match to go ahead at the Etihad.
“I would prefer it is in Manchester,” he said. “It would be a challenge for both clubs now (to play elsewhere).
“The whole period showed the massive majority of people behaved responsibly and seriously. The discipline level is probably as high as ever before.”
Manchester City thrashed Burnley 5-0 at an empty Etihad to ensure Liverpool will not be able to clinch the Premier League title when they face Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez scored twice, while David Silva grabbed what could prove his final City goal to cut the gap at the top to 20 points.
A bad night for Burnley on the field was compounded by a banner flown over the stadium at the start of the match reading: “White lives matter Burnley”.
Black Lives Matter was printed on the back of all shirts for the first 12 matches of the Premier League restart.
Players, coaches and referees have also taken a knee before kick-off in every match to show their support for the fight against racial injustice.
In a statement, Burnley said: “Those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for.”
The disparity of resources between the sides was shown even before kick-off as Burnley boss Sean Dyche could not even fill his bench, while Pep Guardiola was able to make eight changes from a 3-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday.
Dyche has been left frustrated by the Burnley board’s refusal to extend contracts of five players who are out of contract at the end of the month.
Injuries to Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Johann Berg Gudmundsson meant Dyche could name just seven of a possible nine substitutes.
Aymeric Laporte, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling were among those kept in reserve for City’s trip to Chelsea on Thursday.
Foden shines as Sane returns
Foden made the most of his chance to start as the 20-year-old opened the floodgates with a sweet strike from outside the box.
Mahrez then killed the game as a contest before half-time as the Algerian left Charlie Taylor trailing on the floor before firing into the far corner on his weaker right foot.
VAR awarded Mahrez the chance to double his tally from the penalty spot after Ben Mee caught Sergio Aguero, forcing the Argentine striker off injured.
Retaining their Premier League title may be beyond City, but Guardiola’s men still have the chance to add the FA Cup and Champions League to the League Cup they won in March.
The fierce competition for places appears to be having an effect as there was no let-up after the break.
Bernardo Silva’s low cross was turned home by his namesake David for the hosts’ fourth.
Foden then rounded off the scoring at the far post after Gabriel Jesus failed to convert David Silva’s cross.
There was another positive for City as Leroy Sane replaced Foden for the final 10 minutes to make his first appearance since suffering cruciate knee ligament damage in August.
The German international seems certain to leave the club at the end of the season after rejecting a new contract amid interest from Bayern Munich.
But Sane could still have a part to play in City’s quest for a cup treble before the end of the campaign.
Leroy Sane is heading for the Manchester City exit door after rejecting a new deal, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
The Germany international has 12 months left on his contract and has been heavily linked with Bayern Munich, with the City boss acknowledging it is only a matter of time before Sane leaves.
“Leroy said he does not want to extend the contract next season so it means he wants to leave and it is going to happen this summer or at the end of the contract,” Guardiola said on a videoconference with reporters on Friday.
“The club told me they offered two or three times to extend his contract, he rejected, so he wants to play in another club.
“I think everybody knows if at the end of this season there is an agreement of both clubs, he is going to leave.”
Winger Sane, 24, has won the Premier League title twice at City since joining from Schalke in 2016.
However, he has not played for the first team since suffering a torn knee ligament in the Community Shield match against Liverpool in August.
“When we make an offer to a player it’s because we want him,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference.
“He has special quality. We want players who want to play with the club to achieve targets. He is a nice guy and I love him so much. I have nothing against — but he wants another adventure.”
Guardiola said that David Silva and Claudio Bravo would stay at the club until the end of the extended season, having initially been due to leave at the end of June.
City, second in the Premier League, face Burnley on Monday.
The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return on Wednesday after 100 days in lockdown, with Manchester City’s clash against Arsenal taking centre stage at the start of a frenetic dash to finish the season.
Coronavirus restrictions mean the drama will be played out with no fans in the stands but football-starved supporters will be able to feast on 92 televised games crammed into less than six weeks.
Liverpool could be just days away from winning their first English top-flight title for 30 years.
Jurgen Klopp’s men, who hold a 25-point lead at the top of the table, could be crowned champions as early as Sunday when they face local rivals Everton if City lose to Arsenal.
The battle for Champions League places next season and to avoid the drop are far more closely contested.
Relegation-threatened Aston Villa get the ball rolling on Wednesday when they host European hopefuls Sheffield United.
The matches will be preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of those who have died from COVID-19. The virus has claimed more than 41,000 lives in Britain.
Three of the four managers to lead their sides on Wednesday have been touched by the virus.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith’s father died, while City manager Pep Guardiola lost his mother.
Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad for the first time as Arsenal manager three months after his positive test for coronavirus hastened the season shutdown.
“The night I had symptoms and how serious I was — I had to report it. I could have put people at risk and I wasn’t willing to do that,” said Arteta.
“We made the right call and the right decision and the authorities and the Premier League were really strong on that. It could have been much worse.”
All Premier League players will wear “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) on the back of their shirts where names are normally printed for the first 12 matches of the restart to support the global campaign against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd in the United States.
A BLM logo will feature on shirts for the remainder of the season along with a badge thanking Britain’s health workers for their efforts.
Players will also be supported if they choose to take a knee before or during matches as a sign of protest.
“To give them that much power is a line in the sand for the Premier League about where they are going and on what side of history they want to stand,” former Arsenal striker Ian Wright told the BBC.
– ‘Odd experience’ –
With all games being played behind closed doors, players will have to get used to the eerie silence in the usually raucous stands.
Piping crowd chants into stadiums, cardboard cut-outs of supporters and live video fan walls will add colour but the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters admitted there would be something missing without fans.
“It is going to be an odd experience without fans at the stadia,” he said. “We are going to start to witness it from tomorrow evening and the Premier League won’t be back with a capital ‘B’ until fans are back.”
About 300 people will be allowed in stadiums for each match, with strict health protocols in place.
There will be widespread disinfection of changing facilities, dugouts, matchballs, goalposts, corner flags and substitution boards.
People other than players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings.
Players have been told to maintain social-distancing during goal celebrations and banned from spitting.
– Stay at home –
Despite concerns over fans congregating around stadiums, clubs won the battle to host matches in their home grounds.
Liverpool can win a long-awaited title in their own city, either at Goodison on Sunday, or when they host Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.
But Klopp stressed the need for supporters to stay at home.
“Stay safe, support us from home. We are still with you and you’ll never walk alone.”
Manchester City star Raheem Sterling has urged English football to use the global anti-racism protests to initiate debates and find solutions regarding the lack of black representation in top leadership positions in the sport.
Calling for racial justice, thousands of protesters have rallied across the UK, joining a wave of demonstrations sparked by the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of US police last month.
England forward Sterling, who has previously been prominent in calling out racism in both the domestic and international game, is the latest sports star to lend his support to the protests.
“The protest is a great starting point, to make your voice be heard. But just protesting alone is not going to make a change in this country,” Sterling said Monday in a BBC TV interview.
“It’s how we move on from here. It’s about highlighting things, the society that needs changing, and then acting upon it. We’ve done a lot of talking, and it’s time now to act.”
“This is a time to speak on these subjects, speak on injustice, especially in my field,” he added.
Sterling pointed a finger at the long-running disparity between the number of high-profile Black, Asian and minority ethnic players and the dearth of those who go on to hold significant managerial, coaching or administrative jobs.
“There’s something like 500 players in the Premier League and a third of them are black and we have no representation of us in the hierarchy, no representation of us in the coaching staff. There’s not a lot of faces that we can relate to and have conversations with,” he said.
“With these protests that are going on it’s all well and good just talking, but it’s time that we need to have conversations, to be able to spark debates.
“But at same time, it’s coming together and finding a solution to be able to spark change because we can talk as much as we want about changing and putting people, black people, in these positions that I do feel they should be in.”
– ‘Give equal chances’ –
Sterling contrasted the managerial paths of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who have landed top roles at Rangers and Chelsea, to equally experienced black players who have been compelled to start much lower down the ladder.
“The coaching staff that you see around football clubs: there’s Steven Gerrard, your Frank Lampards, your Sol Campbells and your Ashley Coles. All had great careers, all played for England,” said Sterling.
“At the same time, they’ve all respectfully done their coaching badges to coach at the highest level and the two that haven’t been given the right opportunities are the two black former players.
“The change is being able to speak to people in Parliament, people at the hierarchy at my football club, football clubs across the country, people at the national team of England, to implement change and give equal chances to not just black coaches but also different ethnicities.
“I feel like that’s what’s lacking here, it’s not just taking the knee, it is about giving people the chance they deserve.”
“Until a decision is made on how we go on from here, then we just have to deal with it. But when it happens, we are still bringing the title to our fans, definitely.”
Liverpool could have wrapped up the title on Monday with a win at Everton if Manchester City were beaten by Burnley on Saturday, but both those games were postponed, along with the rest of the Premier League programme.
Some have suggested the season should be scrapped for safety reason, which would leave Premier League chiefs to decide if Liverpool should be given the title even though the campaign did not reach its scheduled 38-game conclusion.
Sport is expected to be subjected to further restrictions next week, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly ready to announce a ban on major public gatherings.
The sporting programme has once again been decimated on Sunday, although the Super League match between Castleford and St Helens, the All England badminton Championship and Olympic boxing qualifiers are still going ahead in Britain.
Arsenal’s game at Manchester City set for Wednesday has been postponed after players from the London club were quarantined, making it the first Premier League football fixture to be called off because of coronavirus.
Arsenal said players and four staff had been isolated at their homes after coming into contact with the owner of Greek club Olympiakos, Vangelis Marinakis, who has since tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are strictly following the government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact,” an Arsenal statement said.
“As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s (Wednesday’s) match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed.”
The first postponement in the Premier League, which has a huge worldwide following, follows widespread disruption to football and other sports across the globe.
Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League by Olympiakos on February 27. Marinakis, owner of the Greek club and English side Nottingham Forest, announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
But Arsenal said the players and staff, who met Marinakis after the game at the Emirates Stadium, will return to work on Friday ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brighton.
“The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing COVID-19 at extremely low,” it added.
The Premier League called the move a “precautionary measure” and said there were no plans to postpone any other games.
Arsenal’s opponents on Saturday struggling Brighton tweeted that their game was still on.
“Albion’s match against Arsenal this Saturday remains scheduled to go ahead as planned, in line with government advice, and following consultation with the Premier League and medical advisors. #BHAFC,” they tweeted.
Football’s Serie A and all other sports have been put on hold in Italy, while the top two divisions in Spain and France will be played in empty stadiums for at least the next two weeks.
UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League have also been both forced to arrange matches behind closed doors as the epidemic spreads.
Olympiakos host Wolverhampton Wanderers in Athens this week in the Europa League, in one of the last-16 games that will be played in front of an empty stadium.
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has joined a number of managers, including Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, in voicing disquiet at being asked to play without fans.
“If we have to go we will. But we don’t agree — we’re not happy to go,” he told Sky Sports.
“Behind closed doors doesn’t make sense,” he added. “We’re pretending to live a normal life when things aren’t normal.”
Wednesday’s postponement could also frustrate Premier League leaders Liverpool, as a defeat for Manchester City would have taken Liverpool to the brink of their first top-flight title in 30 years.
Manchester United completed a first Premier League double over Manchester City for 10 years as Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay punished two errors from visiting goalkeeper Ederson for a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The victory keeps United hot on the heels of Chelsea for a top-four finish in the Premier League just three points behind the Blues in fifth place, which could be good enough for Champions League football next season.
Outgoing English champions City are banned from European football for the next two years pending an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and on this display seem to already be concentrating on completing a treble of cup competitions this season.
A seventh league defeat of the campaign for City means Liverpool are now just a maximum of two wins away from claiming a first league title in 30 years.
City dominated possession early on, but lacked their normal potency without the injured Kevin De Bruyne as United created the better chances on the counter-attack.
The January signing of Bruno Fernandes has been key to United’s 10-game unbeaten run and the Portuguese’s first impact in the game put Daniel James through, but the Welshman fired too close to Ederson.
Martial also allowed the Brazilian to make a comfortable save with a clear sight of goal after outmuscling Fernandinho.
City’s defensive deficiencies have allowed Liverpool to streak 25 points clear. But it was an uncharacteristic error from Ederson that gifted United the lead.
Fernandes was the creator again with a scooped free-kick to pick out the Frenchman and his shot squeezed under Ederson’s right hand and crept in at the near post.
VAR overlooks penalty shout
Confidence was now flowing through United as Fernandes headed wide at the end of an excellent team move before Fred was controversially booked for diving when he appeared to have been taken down inside the area by Nicolas Otamendi.
United fans were frustrated VAR did not intervene on that occasion and when it did early in the second half, City were nearly the beneficiaries.
Sergio Aguero was flagged offside long before he fired past David de Gea, but the Argentine was only fractionally off when the move was reviewed.
Moments later Ederson escaped gifting another goal as a routine backpass rolled under his foot and the former Benfica stopper needed to produce a last-ditch tackle on Martial to deny United breathing space.
City then slowly started to up the pressure. Phil Foden’s long-range drive forced De Gea into a fingertip save.
Raheem Sterling then could not stretch to get a good connection on Riyad Mahrez’s cross and De Gea got down well to deny Gabriel Jesus.
However, where United may have buckled earlier in the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men held firm to record a third win in four meetings with City this season.
McTominay sealed the three points deep into stoppage time when he strode onto a wayward throw by Ederson to steer the ball into an unguarded net.