There was standing room only on the train to London Marylebone last Saturday as it carried fans from two of England’s great football tribes towards the FA Cup final.
Liverpool supporters, in particular, were in fine voice as the train rolled through the enemy territory of the Home Counties, absorbing more and more Chelsea fans at well-appointed stations at Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross.
Now and again, the strains of Liverpool’s favourite song of the moment, the homage to Jurgen Klopp, that is sung to the tune of I Feel Fine by the Beatles, filled the carriages. ‘I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red,’ they sang. ‘I’m so glad he delivered what he said. Jurgen said to me, you know. We’ll win the Premier League, you know. He said so. I’m in love with him and I feel fine.’
Manchester City and Liverpool are battling to win the title on an incredible final day of drama
Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to ensure that they can secure a top four finish
The relegation battle is also still active, with Leeds looking to preserve their top flight status
Klopp and his team delivered that Saturday by the finest of margins to add a second trophy to their epic quest for the Quadruple, a feat that has never been achieved by an English side. That quest has come to dominate the narrative at the climax of this thrilling season and on Sunday, the last day of the Premier League struggle, it faces its most formidable obstacle.
On this day of days, a day when the joy of the competitiveness of our top flight reaches a magnificent climax and the battle for the title, the final Champions League place, the final European place and the escape from relegation will all be alive at kick-off, Liverpool know they have to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield to have a chance of winning the league.
But they also know the destiny of the title is not in their hands. Because if Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, the team who have fought toe-to-toe with Liverpool all season, overcome Aston Villa at the Etihad, then they will retain the Premier League trophy, win the title for the fourth time in five years and underline their claim to be considered the first great English dynasty to follow Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
The fact Villa are managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard adds another delicious twist to what is certain to be a day of drama and tension, elation and despair, as each team play out their struggles to the bitter end. Eight of the 10 fixtures are freighted with significance. Only the last day of the 1995-96 season had more riding on it.
If the owners had their way with the European Super League days like today wouldn’t exist
If the Super League went ahead, there would be no fight to qualify for the Champions League because the Champions League would not exist
City’s battle with Liverpool will take pride of place, as it should. This has been an unforgiving battle between two magnificent sides and however often Guardiola may suggest there is a national bias towards Liverpool, and however often it is mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Newcastle has thrown fresh scrutiny over Abu Dhabi’s control of City, few could deny that Guardiola’s side are a dream to watch.
Liverpool have the Footballer of the Year, Mo Salah, in their ranks. City have the Premier League Player of the Year, Kevin De Bruyne, and the newly crowned Young Player of the Season, Phil Foden, decorating their team. Multiple players, on both sides, could have won either honour. It is a measure of their respective merits, the beauty that both teams bring to the field, that the battle between them should go down to the last day. Guardiola said he always knew that it would.
Just over 10 years on from what many consider the greatest final day of all, City fans are hoping they can win without quite the same levels of stress as 2011-12, when they came from behind to beat QPR and seal their first title since 1968.
It is to be hoped, too, that as the game reels from the recent spate of pitch invasions and assaults on players and managers, there are no more problems on Sunday. Armies of fans will be on the move again, emotions will be running high and precedents, sadly, have been set.
It is also worth remembering, as we slaver in anticipation of the day that lies ahead, as Tottenham try to hold off Arsenal for fourth place, as Leeds travel to Brentford desperately hoping they will be able to get a result that allows them to climb above Burnley and escape the drop, that this is a league worth protecting and fighting for.
There is much that is wrong with the Premier League, their redistributive model and the way they treat their fans, but there is much to celebrate about it, too, and that rarely feels more obvious than on climactic days like this. Which is why it is pertinent to point out that this is the same league that our leading clubs have twice tried to ruin in the past two years.
Title challengers Liverpool and City can both call upon some of the best players in the world
Both Project Big Picture and the European Super League, which were backed by Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs, would have changed the face of the Premier League for ever and transformed English football into an altar for the greed of their owners by creating a closed shop at the top of the game.
We are fortunate in this country that the vociferous opposition of supporters unnerved our clubs to the point where they abandoned the projects. And their attempts to destroy the competitive balance of the league focused attention on the need to protect it and try to ensure they can never try to ruin it again.
This season has been momentous for many reasons but it may yet come to pass that its greatest legacy will be the progress made towards a seismic change in the governance of our game with the incoming appointment of an independent regulator.
The game needs to be protected from itself and even though the Premier League are now offering concessions in their desperation to avoid regulation, it is too late. Their owners betrayed the trust of the fans too many times to believe them now.
The fact Villa are managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard adds another delicious twist
If it were up to them, there would be no days like today. The jeopardy in most of these battles that we are revelling in would not exist.
There would be no fight to qualify for the Champions League because the Champions League would not exist. The integrity of the whole Premier League would have been destroyed.
That is just one of the reasons why the battles that unfold on the pitch on Sunday are worth savouring. It is a day to celebrate our league, to celebrate the teams built by City and Liverpool and to hope the greed of owners who would have killed their golden goose is kept at bay.