By Patrick Omorodion
The English Premier League, the EPL is the most followed league in Europe by Nigerian football fans. As a result, they conclude that the EPL is the best league in the world. This is, however, without any authentic statistics.
Personally, I will rather say that the EPL is the most exciting league in Europe. It is the most unpredictable and full of drama. No particular team dominates the league year in year out like you find in most other European leagues that could be adjudged as two-horse race leagues.
Apart from the German top league, called the Bundesliga, which has 18 teams and thus play 34 round of matches, other leagues, the EPL, the Serie A in Italy, the LaLiga in Spain and the Ligue 1 in France all have 20 teams and play 38 round of matches every season.
In all these leagues, it is only the EPL that you have to wait till the last day, that is today to know who the winner will be. They have all played 37 matches but you cannot say which of the top two teams, Manchester City and Liverpool, have won or will win.
In Serie A for example, most of the teams have played 35 matches each, leaving them with three matches more to end the season but a winner has already emerged. Juventus which snapped Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid at the end of last season are winners, leading their closest rivals, Napoli with 16 points, 89 to 73.
The Spanish LaLiga is no different as FC Barcelona are already champions with two matches to spare. They have amassed 83 points to Atletico Madrid’s 74, nine points gap. Ligue 1 winners were known a couple of weeks back as Paris Saint-Germain led others all through with their closest rivals, Lille trailing with 69 to PSG’s 88, 19 clear points difference. The Ligue 1 was more of a one horse race this season.
The German Bundesliga is the only one among Europe’s top 5 that is close to the English EPL this season. The winner is also not too sure till the last day but it could be save to say that Bayern Munich which lead Borrusia Dortmund with two points, 75 to 73, could grab the title after their last set of matches next week.
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In other Euro leagues, the result of matches between the big teams and the smaller teams are almost always predictable but that is not so with the EPL where any team could beat any team. That is why a title chasing Man City could be beaten 2-1 by Newcastle, West Ham beat Arsenal 1-0, Burnley beat Tottenham, that is in the Champions League final, 2-1, Leicester subdued Europa League finalist, Arsenal 3-0 and Everton handed Manchester United their worst drubbing in recent times, 4-0.
The unpredictability of the EPL is why Manchester City led the log at a time and while everyone thought they would coast home, Liverpool overtook them and maintained leadership for some time.
The Jurgen Klopp troops led Man City at a time by seven points but lost the advantage until the rat race began with two points between when Liverpool is on top or just a point any time the defending champions from the blue side of Manchester are leading.
So as the EPL winds down today, Pep Guardiola’s side lead Liverpool with a point, 95 to 94 and battle 17th placed Brighton & Hove Albion away, needing a clear win to retain the title, the first team to do so in 10 seasons.
Brighton are save from the drop zone but they are already warning the leaders that they won’t come cheap today. Man City would be underrating them at their own risk therefore. Even Everton fans are making a case for Man City by asking Brighton to play soft and allow Guardiola smile with the three points so that Liverpool are not crowned champions.
Brighton’s Shane Duffy is reported to be ignoring the plea from Everton fans and have said emphatically that they will do Man City no such favours because “ I’m a professional”, stressing “”I’ve had a few Everton fans texting me, telling me to let them through.”
With a statement like this “All the players are excited to spoil the party (for Man City),” from Duffy, Guardiola has no choice but to work on his top scorers, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling to convert any chance that comes their way.
Brighton may really want to play the spoiler moreso when their Spanish captain and full-back Bruno will be retiring after today’s game and would want to give him a befitting parting retirement gift with an unbeaten last game at home.
The Seagulls’ (as Brighton are known) manager, Chris Hughton said that Bruno “has been instrumental in (the team’s) progress as a football club,” and has “been an outstanding player, an outstanding professional and is an outstanding person.” So what a better way to honour him as he retires from the game.
On their part. Liverpool, who just passed through a burning furnace in their last Champions League game against Barcelona where they pulled the chestnut out of the fire with an unbelievable 4-0 pounding of the star-studded Spanish Kings, need to also work harder as they have a bigger task in gaint-killing Wolvehampton Wanderers in today’s last game.
The Wolves are always a hard meat to chew and Klopp knows this. This is not the time to hope that Brighton will hold Man City but he has to ensure that his players come to the party and beat the stubborn Wolves first.
After 29 years, Liverpool deserves to win moreso after also coming close last season. Like most of their sympathisers have been saying, they did themselves in by allowing Man City to close the seven points lead.
At the bottom, unlike in previous years, those dropped are already known before the final day. Cardiff City, Fulham and Huddersfield Town, in that order, have kissed top flight football goodbye. The only place drama is also expected is in the ties between Tottenham and Everton and Leicester City and Chelsea. Chelsea need a win to retain third spot while Tottenham need at least a draw to ensure the unexpected doesn’t happen if Arsenal pulls a record 8-0 win against Burnley to push them out of the Champions League slot. Bye to the most exciting league in the world till next season again.