LONDON. — Liverpool must lift themselves after being floored by a Lionel Messi masterclass in Barcelona if they are to take the English Premier League football title race against a relentless Manchester City into the final weekend of the season.
Jurgen Klopp’s men face a tricky trip to Newcastle tonight, two days before Pep Guardiola’s City host Leicester, with just one point separating the pair.
Below them, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United remain in the hunt to secure the remaining two top-four places despite stuttering form.
And at the bottom of the table, Cardiff’s Premier League future is hanging by a thread as they prepare to host Crystal Palace.
It is advantage City in arguably the greatest Premier League title race in history, with neither side having dropped points for two months.
Defending champions City, after 12 straight wins, are on 92 points, one clear of relentless Liverpool, who have lost just once in the league all season.
Defeat for Liverpool at Newcastle, managed by former Reds’ boss Rafael Benitez, would give City the chance to wrap up the title on Monday night.
But a win would put Liverpool back on top for at least 48 hours and put the pressure back on Guardiola’s team, who take on a Leicester side chasing European football and fresh from thrashing Arsenal 3-0 last weekend.
“I think mentally we shouldn’t be affected,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said after his side’s valiant performance in Barcelona was ruined by two late Messi goals to seal a 3-0 Champions League semi-final, first leg win for the Spanish champions.
“I won’t be. It was a tough game, but we have a big game at the weekend and we are still in the race.
“We want the same performance without conceding the goals.”
The race for the remaining two slots in the Premier League top four, which gives entry to next season’s Champions League, is the one nobody apparently wants to win.
None of the challengers managed a win last weekend, meaning Tottenham still lead the way on 70 points, two head of Chelsea.
Arsenal, who have lost their past three league games, are on 66 points, with Manchester United still in the race despite a woeful run of form, a further point behind.
Fifth and sixth spot offers the consolation of Europa League football, but so too could seventh if City beat Watford in the FA Cup final next month.
English Premiership Fixtures
(all 4pm time unless stated)
Today: Bournemouth v Tottenham (1:30pm), West Ham v Southampton, Wolves v Fulham, Cardiff v Crystal Palace (6:30pm), Newcastle v Liverpool (8:45pm)
Tomorrow: Chelsea v Watford (3pm), Huddersfield v Manchester United (3pm), Arsenal v Brighton (5:30pm)
Monday: Manchester City v Leicester (9pm). —AFP.