As the English Premier League season winds down, Manchester City and Liverpool are battling for the title, with Chelsea still in the mix. City will claim the crown for the second time in three seasons if it can win its last three matches. Anything less, and Liverpool will be champions if it can win its last two.
Of City’s three remaining matches, only tomorrow’s contest at Everton looks problematic. The other two — at home against weaklings Aston Villa and West Ham — don’t look challenging (but who knows; this has been a season of major upsets).
Fifth place Everton has played great at Goodison Park, drawing against Liverpool and defeating Chelsea, for example. Moreover, Everton has played City tough at home, defeating the Citizens 2-0 last year and 1-0 the season before. And Everton has an incentive tomorrow; there is still a very slight chance of overtaking Arsenal for fourth place and a spot in next season’s Champions League.
It is not unreasonable, then, for Liverpool to think that Everton might at least get a draw tomorrow. In that event, the Red Shite would need only to defeat mid-table Crystal Palace (away) and Newcastle (at home).
For weeks, though, I’ve heard talk that some in the backroom at Goodison Park would rather see Everton lose than be the instrument through which Liverpool breaks its title drought of 24 years.
I didn’t believe this talk when I first heard it because at that time Everton had a decent shot at finishing fourth. But now, with that prospect remote, there may be some sentiment against helping our bitter rival.
I hope not. Tribalism has its place in soccer, but it must take a back seat to playing to win (or to draw, if it comes to that).
For me, it would be brilliant to derail Manchester City. If we fail to do so, the adverse consequences for Liverpool will be of some consolation, but certainly not the preferred outcome.
The Everton-Manchester City match will kick off tomorrow around 12:30 Eastern Time. CNBC will televise it.
UPDATE: Urged on by the Goodison faithful, Everton went at City hard but came up a goal short. Manchester City 3, Everton 2. Uncharacteristically slack defending, perhaps the product of too much tinkering with the formation, did us in.
Generally, it’s no disgrace to yield three goals to Manchester City. But today’s City lineup wasn’t that formidable from an attacking standpoint. Our two goals should have been enough for a draw, but it wasn’t to be.
Liverpool will have to get its help elsewhere.