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Premier League

Could the Premier League title race be decided by a playoff game?

Liverpool are three points behind Manchester City in the table but so close on goal difference that a 39th game to decide the title is a possibility.

Xavi Heras
Premier League title race on course for 39th game

With three games of the Premier League season remaining there is little to separate Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table, with advantage handed to Pep Guardiola’s side after Jürgen Klopp’s men were held to a draw by Spurs last weekend at Anfield. Liverpool beat Villa 2-1 on Tuesday to move level on points with City in action at Wolves on Wednesday.

Guardiola’s City were dramatically knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid last week and will now concentrate on lifting the Premier League trophy at the expense of Liverpool, who are targeting an historic English quadruple. Klopp’s side take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday in a rematch of the EFL Cup final earlier in the year, which Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties to secure the first of a potential four trophies in 2021-22.

Premier League rules allow for a title playoff game

City and Liverpool are so closely entwined at the top of the league table that the drama may well carry on into the final day of the season, and potentially beyond. Premier League rules state that if two sides finish level on points, several factors will come into play to decide the title on a tie-break. Firstly, goal difference is taken into account. Then comes total goals scored, with both sides currently having bagged 89 each. After that, head-to-head results come into play, with both games between City and Liverpool during the 2021-22 Premier League season ending 2-2.

The margin is extremely fine but City hold a slight advantage in the goal difference stakes, with a differential of +68 to Liverpool’s +65. That means there would need to be a shift in that deciding factor for the title to be decided in a hypothetical play-off between the two sides.

Manchester City have previously won the Premier League on goal difference, in 2011-12, when a 94th-minute Sergio Agüero winner at QPR ensured that City and Manchester United finished level on points, sending the title to the blue half of the city courtesy of a superior goal difference of +8.

Title decider could affect Liverpool’s Champions League preparations

Should City and Liverpool end the season level on points, with the same goal difference and the same number of goals scored, the head-to-head results between the sides mean that a 39th game – a straight shoot-out for the title – will be played to decide the title, at a neutral venue. The most likely date for the match to take place is 25 May, three days before the Champions League final in Paris.


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