After beating Aston Villa 4-0 on Wednesday evening to regain the lead in the Premier League title race, Manchester City can ill-afford to relax in their final game of the season despite a two point cushion at the top of the table. West Ham will be the visitors to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon as City seek to clinch a second title in three seasons, but with Andy Carroll leading the away attack and still hoping to impress England manager Roy Hodgson, the result is by no means a foregone conclusion.
When Liverpool conceded three late goals to draw 3-3 in their penultimate league match at Crystal Palace on Monday evening, manager Brendan Rodgers conceded the Premier League title with Manchester City playing two home matches in their remaining games. With one victory already claimed, City are firmly in the driving seat at the head of the table, but will be wise to take heed of their final match from two seasons previously.
Then, City needed to a win against lowly Queens Park Rangers to claim their first Premier League crown, but their opponents that day were trying to avoid relegation. QPR assumed a 2-1 lead in the closing stages of the game, but two very late goals from City rescued the situation and saved their blushes.
While West Ham are not in the same predicament as were QPR that day, Manchester City cannot afford to relax despite the Hammers being confirmed as a lower mid-table team for this season. Reports have suggested that England manager Roy Hodgson has already selected his World Cup squad, but Andy Carroll will be eager to create a late impression after a season blighted by injury.
Where better to show your attacking capabilities than against the Champions-in-waiting and the Tyneside born striker has claimed two goals in recent games while a third was defined as an own goal. Although the City attack has thrived since early March, the defence has appeared vulnerable at times with only two clean sheets maintained in their previous eight league games.
With Liverpool expected to beat a frail Newcastle team which has slumbered in mid-table for several weeks, City are aware that their superior goal difference will require only a draw from this final match to regain the Premier League title.
City displayed a positive attitude throughout Wednesday evening especially when their first goal did not arrive until mid-second half but the longer they play on Sunday without scoring, the more anxious their fans may become.
Their anxiety will be justified in the event of Andy Carroll being allowed to stamp his authority on proceedings and potentially spoiling the City party. It is certainly within his capabilities.
Manchester City would be wise to ignore him at their peril.
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