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EPL title beckons for Manchester City after Liverpool slip

LONDON: Liverpool's extraordinary 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace means that Manchester City can close to within touching distance of the Premier League title by beating Aston Villa on Wednesday.

With the top two neck-and-neck on 80 points and with two games to play each, City were braced for a repeat of the 2012 campaign, when they pipped Manchester United to the title on goal difference on the final day.

However, Liverpool's late capitulation at Selhurst Park on Monday, when they let a 3-0 lead slip in the last 11 minutes, means that City now effectively need only four points to regain the title.

Steven Gerrard and Dwight Gayle
Liverpool's midfielder Steven Gerrard (L) reacts behind goal scorer Crystal Palace's striker Dwight Gayle (R) during the English Premier League football match at Selhurst Park in south London on Monday. Pic/AFP

Both their last matches are at home, with West Ham United following Villa to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and with a goal difference of +59 to Liverpool's +50, they can afford to drop two points and still finish on top.

City midfielder Samir Nasri was unable to contain his delight at Liverpool's slip-up, tweeting shortly after the game: "What a game, what a league. I love Crystal Palace so much. Now our turn to do the job."

While both Villa and West Ham have nothing to play for this season, Yaya Toure has warned his City team-mates not to take them lightly.

"Both Aston Villa and West Ham are sharp and will come to just enjoy the games, but we have a league to play for," said the Ivorian midfielder.

"I hope we complete the job, but it depends how sharp we are, how we prepare mentally and physically.

"Our target was always to win something, but for us the League Cup is not enough. The Premier League was always our target, so now we need to be at our optimum levels when Aston Villa come to our stadium on Wednesday."

He added: "We definitely expect to win it. As a team at the top, you always expect to win.

"We have worked so hard this year and, if we don't win, it would be a massive disappointment for us, for the fans and for the club as well."

- Agbonlahor doubt -

Toure has declared himself fit after being substituted during the second half of Saturday's 3-2 win at Everton.

City also hope that Sergio Aguero will be able to lead the line against Villa despite having gone off due to a groin complaint in the first half of Saturday's game.

The Argentine left the fray in the 28th minute at Goodison Park, but he subsequently took to Twitter to reveal that his substitution had merely been "a precaution".

Villa also have concerns over the fitness of a key forward, after Gabriel Agbonlahor was forced off during the 3-1 defeat of Hull City on Saturday with a knee problem.

Norwich City's 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Sunday means that Villa are now safe from relegation, but the club continue to be dogged by uncertainty over the future of manager Paul Lambert.

Villa's American owner Randy Lerner is due to make an announcement on his own position at the club shortly and Lambert says that his fate could be closely tied to Lerner's.

Asked if he would be staying at Villa Park, Lambert replied: "I hope so. That is what I want to do, but you'll know when the chairman says what he is going to do.

"The next step is for the chairman to come out and say. We had to get over the line and then the chairman will come out and say what he will.

"You would love to do it. It is a brilliant club to drive on. That's why I said the most important thing for this club was to stay in this league."

Villa won this season's reverse fixture in September 3-2 thanks to a 75th-minute goal by Andreas Weimann, but they have not won at the Etihad in the league since a 2-0 success in April 2007.

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