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SPORTS

Man City Hosts Arsenal in Last Clash of EPL Big Three. Liverpool Could Be the Big Winner

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Win against Arsenal on Sunday and Manchester City’s path to a record fourth straight English Premier League title becomes clearer.

Lose, and Arsenal takes a giant step towards becoming league champion for the first time in 20 years.

Draw, and the big winner this weekend could be Liverpool.

With 10 rounds to go, the clash at Etihad Stadium is the last time any of the three title rivals will go head to head.

Arsenal leads the league. Liverpool is second on goal difference. City is a point behind both of them. Just five goals separate the top two.

An element of risk and reward hangs over City and Arsenal.

History is clearly on City’s side, having won its last eight home games against the Gunners. City’s last home loss in this fixture was in 2015.

But Arsenal has been better this season after beating City in a penalty shootout to win the Community Shield in August, followed by a 1-0 victory at Emirates Stadium in October.

City manager Pep Guardiola’s preparations haven’t been helped by injuries to key defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones during the international break.

MASTER AND APPRENTICE

Mikel Arteta was once Guardiola’s trusted lieutenant at City. Arteta was spoken of as a future City manager but is working on creating his own legacy at Arsenal after transforming the club’s fortunes since taking charge in 2019.

He has been backed with money and time, and that faith has paid off with Arsenal leading the league and advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals. After falling away badly at the end of last season to allow City to take the English title, it remains to be seen if Arteta and his players have learned from that experience.

Those two wins against City this season suggest Arsenal is more prepared to go head to head against the champion.

RUN-IN

Arsenal stands as the last major test for City. It has arguably the smoothest run of games to the end of the league. Arsenal and Liverpool both have to travel to Manchester United and face respective derbies against Tottenham and Everton.

All three teams still have to face Aston Villa and Spurs, who are competing for fourth spot and Champions League qualification.

Liverpool plays Brighton on Sunday with the chance to go to the top of the standings before City and Arsenal kick off.

FORM GUIDE

There is little to choose between the challengers.

City is on an ominous 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions, dating to the start of December.

Liverpool has lost two of its last 23 games and already has its first trophy of the season after winning the English League Cup in February.

One of those defeats was Manchester United’s extra time winner in the FA Cup final this month. The other was 3-1 to Arsenal in the league in February.

Arsenal, meanwhile, has risen to the top of the league on the back of an eight-game winning streak.

DISTRACTIONS

All three teams are battling on multiple fronts.

City is defending its Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble of last season.

Liverpool is no longer competing for a quadruple, but after winning the League Cup it is also still in contention for the Europa League.

Arsenal is in the Champions League quarters, where it faces Bayern Munich.

City was given the toughest draw of all against Real Madrid.

X FACTOR

Guardiola could make history by winning back-to-back trebles including an unprecedented fourth Premier League in a row. Not even Alex Ferguson managed that at Man United.

Arsenal will be driven to make amends for last season’s title collapse after it led the table for 248 days, the longest of any team that hasn’t gone on to be crowned champion.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is on his farewell tour. He’s stepping down at the end of the season. The best send off would be a second league title.

___
By JAMES ROBSON AP Soccer Writer

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