That didn’t take long! And it’s a gem of an assist from Thiago, a nonchalant flick that sends Mane clean through.
Aha, the gods of drama have woken up. Newcastle get a penalty (from VAR) and Callum Wilson puts it away, which means Leeds are out of the bottom three and Burnley are in the brown stuff.
This is not how it was meant to go. For the purposes of drama, we needed early goals for Villa, Norwich, Palace and Leeds. Instead not one of them has found the net and poor old Norwich have now gone behind, to Dejan Kulusevski, the Luis Diaz of the south.
“A Klopp masterpiece of tactics!” says Mark Slater. “City will now relax and leak goals, and fail to win as the ‘Pool undertake a second half blitz!!” Ha.
In today’s dullest fixture, something has happened. And Kennedy has an assist! His cross gives Kai Havertz a tap-in.
A word from our Everton correspondent, Mary Waltz. “Well, now I know what watching a team with a starting squad all suffering from a massive hangover looks like.” At least you can watch them! We’ve only got two live games here in little old England.
A Sky caption shows that Liverpool have won more points from losing positions than anyone else in the Premier League – 17 so far. Second, less predictably, are Everton, level with Brentford on 15.
That was all about Virgil van Dijk’s absence. As Jose Sa went long, Ibrahima Konate missed with a header, letting Raul Jimenez go clean through. His neat cross gave Pedro Neto a tap-in.
Peep peep! times
At Anfield, You’ll Never Walk Alone is ringing out. Liverpool always win the battle of the anthems.
kenedy! Remember him?
Chelsea Mendy, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, James, Kante, Niguez, Kenedy, Ziyech, Mount, Havertz.
Watford Bachmann, Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara, Sissoko, Kayembe, Cleverley, King, Pedro, Sema.
Youri Tielemans returns for Leicester. Jamie Vardy, who always seems to score on the last day, may fancy his chances. Ralph Hasenhuttl leaves out Armando Broja and places all his faith in the Armstrongs.
leicester Schmeichel, Fofana, Evans, Dewsbury-Hall, Mendy, Justin, Tielemans, Castagne, Maddison, Vardy, Barnes.
southampton McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Lyanco, Stephens, Salisu, Redmond, Elyounoussi, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, S Armstrong, A Armstrong.
A more sentimental manager might have given Mark Noble a start. David Moyes prefers to bring him off the bench.
Brighton Sanchez, Veltman, Dunk, Webster, March, Bissouma, Caicedo, Cucurella, Gross, Mac Allister, Welbeck.
west ham Fabianski, Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Lanzini, Fornals, Antonio.
Ralf Rangnick finishes as he started, with a game against Palace. Cristiano Ronaldo’s place goes to Edinson Cavani, so at least the pressing will be better, and there’s a first start for the feisty Hannibal Mejbri. Patrick Vieira makes five changes from the soap opera at Goodison Park, with Marc Guehi among the absentees.
Crystal Palace Guaita, Clyne, Andersen, Ward, Mitchell, Gallagher, Hughes, Schlupp, Rak-Sakyi, Zaha, Edouard.
Man United De Gea, Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles, McTominay, Fred, Elanga, Mejbri, Fernandes, Cavani.
No Christian Norgaard for Brentford, so he may be in danger of missing out on the Golden Shinpad (for the most tackles). For Leeds, Patrick Bamford was ready to return, only to test positive for Covid, which rather sums up their season.
Brentford Raya, Ajer, Jansson, Sorensen, Henry, Jensen, Janelt, Eriksen, Mbuemo, Toney, Wissa.
leeds Meslier, Koch, Llorente, Cooper, Firpo, Phillips, Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison, Gelhardt, Greenwood.
Dele Alli gets a rare start, Donny van de Beek doesn’t – he’s on the bench, ready to come on for Dele in the 63rd minute. Frank Lampard gives a few people a breather, but this Arsenal defense still looks a bit ropey.
arsenal Ramsdale, Soares, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares, Elneny, Xhaka, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Nketiah.
everton Begovic, Branthwaite, Holgate, Keane, Kenny, Davies, Doucoure, Iwobi, Alli, Gray, Calvert-Lewin.
Antonio Conte, another manager who takes the drama out of selection, has Harry Kane fit again.
Norwich Krul, Aarons, Byram, Hanley, Giannoulis, Sorensen, Normann, Dowell, Lees-Melou, Rashica, Pukki.
Tottenham Lloris, Sanchez, Dier, Davies, Royal, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon, Kulusevski, Kane, Son.
Burnley stick with a drawing team, reinforcing the suspicion that their stand-in manager Michael Jackson knows what he’s doing. Kieran Trippier returns for Newcastle, whose drastic improvement began with his arrival.
Burnley Pope, Taylor, Tarkowski, Collins, Long, Cork, Roberts, McNeil, Brownhill, Barnes, Cornet.
newcastle Dubravka, Trippier, Lascelles, Burn, Targett, Longstaff, Guimaraes, Joelinton, Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
No Sterling or Grealish in Pep’s starting XI, but John Stones returns (as a right-back). For Villa, Emi Martinez is unfit so Steven Gerrard gives a club debut to Robin Olsen, who used to be at Everton and then Sheffield United. Sounds like a recipe for some last-day heroics.
man city Ederson, Stones, Fernandinho, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Silva, Mahrez, Foden, Jesus.
aston villa Olsen, Cash, Chambers, Mings, Digne, Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey, Buendia, Coutinho, Watkins.
And no Van Dijk either, which may make more of a difference.
Liverpool Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Konate, Robertson, Keita, Henderson, Thiago, Jota, Mane, Diaz.
wolves Sa, Gomes, Coady, Boly, Ait Nouri, Moutinho, Neves, Dendoncker, Otto, Neto, Jimenez
Some correspondence! “Just emailing in,” says Joe Mahoney. “to question that choice of Lasagna pic. Was it your intention to find the single most unappetizing picture on the internet? If so, well done. The film-like shiny skin on its surface seems to be acting in a similar way to bright, colorful frog skin; a clear warning sign to all to stay far, far away.” I’ll pass on your compliments to the picture desk.
Hang on, we have a fifth two horse race. The Golden Boot! Mo Salah is in the lead with 22 league goals, but Son Heung-Min is breathing down his neck with 21. Salah may not get a start today, with only six sleeps till the Champions League final. And even if he does, Wolves – though they’re in terrible form – may be less obliging than Norwich. Cristiano Ronaldo, who is third, is missing today with a hip-flexor injury, so he’ll be left with the Bronze Boot unless Harry Kane helps himself to a hat-trick at Carrow Road.
Afternoon everyone and welcome to the madhouse. The final day of the Premier League season is traditionally a time of late twists, fond farewells, squeaky bums and silly results (Sir Alex Ferguson managed to combine the lot by finishing his career with a 5-5 draw at West Brom). Today we may see a little less of the wackiness and a little more grit, because the fixture list has done us proud. There are four two-horse races still to be run, and none of the clubs involved are facing each other – so eight of the ten games starting at 4pm have something riding on them.
Those races in full:
The league title. It practically belongs to Pep Guardiola, and it’s his to lose. If City beat Villa, they retain the Premier League trophy. But Liverpool, who face Wolves, are only one point behind them – and they’ve come from 11 points behind on 19 January. Both teams are at home today, which is more reassuring for Jurgen Klopp than for Pep.
The last Champions League spot. Leonard Cohen saw it coming: it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth. Spurs visit poor bednighted Norwich, needing only a point, so they can almost afford to be Spursy. Or even to order the lasagne. Arsenal, who have slipped back into their red-card habit, can’t afford to be Arsey. They entertain Everton, who are poor travelers and have nothing to play for after saving their skins in that midweek melodrama – but they have bizarrely become Mikel Arteta’s bogey team, with victories in the last three league meetings between the sides.
The European wooden spoon. Not content with competing to see who is Manchester United’s least successful post-Fergie manager, Ralf Rangnick and David Moyes are also duking it out for the dubious honor of qualifying for the Europa Conference League. United, who visit Crystal Palace, are two points ahead but way behind on goal difference, so they need a win to be sure of making the Europa League, which is about their level these days. West Ham, who go to Brighton, seem much the better team without having the league results to show for it. They may have something in their eye as they say goodbye to Mark Noble.
The final relegation place. Norwich and Watford are doomed, Everton are safe, which leaves Burnley and Leeds. Both are on 35 points, with Burnley way ahead on goal difference and in much better form after benefiting from the no-manager bounce. They have 10 points from the last six games, twice as many as Leeds. Burnley are at home to Newcastle, whose new-found excellence is seldom seen on the road. Leeds visit Brentford, who have been superb since they signed Christian Eriksen. It’s a lot easier to see Burnley getting something than Leeds, but the final day doesn’t have much to do with logic.
The closest thing to a dead rubber is at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea, who can only finish a distant third, welcome Watford, who are 19th and can’t be shifted unless Norwich somehow beat Spurs. The final game is Leicester v Southampton, where nothing but pride and prize money is at stake. Leicester, who are ninth, may well leapfrog Wolves, though they could conceivably be caught by Brighton. Southampton are 15th and will stay there unless Everton better their result.
If you’d rather follow one of the two biggest games, do join Rob Smyth for City-Villa or Simon Burnton for Liverpool-Wolves. If you’re up for all the fun of the fair, and the unfair, do stay here.