Season finale cliffhanger

Man City @ 1/7
Liverpool @ 9/2

Spurs @ 1/50
Arsenal @ 11/1

Leeds @ 2/5
Burnley @ 15/8

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Well, we made it: Gameweek 38.  The final episode of the 30th season of The Premier League – which now sits just behind The Simpsons as the longest running animated sitcom of all time.

Unlike The Simpsons, however, people still watch The Premier League; and, largely thanks to the ineffectual, pouting histrionics of Manchester United, this season has been a lot funnier too.

Bruno Fernandes’ character has been tweaked from a razor-toed assist-king into a flailing, petulant, cry-baby; and Harry Maguire has mined a new seam of exaggerated slapstick gold to help breathe fresh life into what some had been calling an increasingly tired and humourless franchise.

Another key part of the Premier League’s enduring popularity is that fact that, even as we approach the final weekend, all of the major questions that were posed back in mid-August are yet to be fully answered.

Manchester City or Liverpool can still win the title.  Tottenham Hotspur or Arsenal can still finish in the remaining Champions League slot.  Manchester United and West Ham will both be singing in a leathery, hair metal-style about Thursday Nights! next season, but neither can be completely sure into which august Europa competition they will be housed.  (Perhaps they never will?)

And at the foot of the table, following The Toffees’ remarkable midweek escape from the sticky stuff, there is still room in the relegation zone for either Burnley or Leeds.

Given Manchester City’s lead and perceived superiority around the turn of the year it is quite astounding that the race for the top spot has come down to the last day.  But with City needing a win to be sure; at home, against a weary Aston Villa team who toiled on Thursday, it is hard to foresee anything other than a canter at The Etihad.

But Villa’s manager, Steven Gerrard, happens to know a thing or two about unearthing unlikely results from improbable locations, and his affection for his former club is unquestionable.  Could he somehow help instigate another famous May miracle for Liverpool?

At home to the old gold of Wolves, Liverpool will surely do their utmost to avoid being awarded a new silver medal.

Following last week’s one-sided North London derby, Arsenal continued to play the role of the gracious neighbour on Monday night – allowing Tottenham to decisively seize the initiative in what had hitherto been a hotly-contested race for the remaining Champions League place by capitulating meekly against Newcastle at St. James’ Park.

In fact, nothing has flopped quite so hard on Tyneside since Sting released Songs from the Labyrinth 2: Electric Boogalute – a sprawling double-album of tracks detailing the ins-and-outs of tantric sex…played entirely on the lute.

Tottenham travel to Norwich on the final day – who have, once again, sunk back down to the lower leagues as quickly as one of Delia Smith’s leaden rhubarb soufflés – while Arsenal host an unburdened but possibly still inebriated Everton.

Both Burnley and Leeds sacked beloved managers in a desperate attempt to stem their respective Premier League declines.  The ruthless-cull approach has worked out marginally better for Burnley, who now go into the final game – at home against Newcastle – knowing that their destiny is in their own hands.

Leeds, meanwhile, head to Brentford; and will be wondering how, following last season’s Bielsa-propelled euphoria, they now find themselves gazing into the relegation abyss once again.

So let’s hope for a fulfilling season finale that befits what has come before: a conclusion featuring incident and thrilling games of throes, rather than a conclusion featuring disappointment like Game of Thrones.  Let’s see some elation and ugly-crying – but not just because Mike Dean is retiring.  And may the conflicts and trials starring footballing greats be as gripping and entertaining on the pitch as they are in the High Court.

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