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City EPL decider no formality in season of twists
By ROB HARRIS
LONDON (AP) A Premier League title race that has thrown up so many unexpected turns could produce one final twist Sunday if Queens Park Rangers pulls off an upset at title-chasing Manchester City.
The trophy was heading to the blue half of Manchester when City went five points clear of United two months ago.
But City collapsed in the next month, allowing United to wipe out the lead and surge eight points clear of its neighbor.
Then it was United's turn to implode over the following month, putting City ahead of the defending champions on goal difference going into the final round of matches on Sunday.
City can clinch a first English championship since 1968 by beating QPR, with the title being decided on goal difference for the first time since the 1988-89 season if United also wins at Sunderland.
But United is ready to pounce on a City slip-up, knowing it could then extend its championship record to 20 titles.
The title race is still on in Game 38.
"I've heard a few things have been said about how we will approach the game and that we think all we have to do is turn up - but that's complete nonsense," City defender Joleon Lescott said. "Every team we play represents a different challenge and we will go out there with the right attitude and manner and try to get the job done.
"It's been a great few weeks with the five wins on the bounce and the way we've turned things around, but for us to start getting carried away now would be silly."
While City's triumph in the FA Cup final last year produced the club's first trophy in 35 years, the expensively assembled squad is packed with players with a collection of winners' medals from their previous clubs.
"It's easy for them to focus for the big games and it comes naturally to them," Lescott said. "For players like myself and Joe Hart for instance, we've not really won anything major apart from the FA Cup."
QPR's focus, though, is just staying in the Premier League. A draw at City would secure that, even if Bolton wins at Stoke.
And QPR striker Jamie Mackie is hoping City can't cope with the pressure of being within touching distance of the trophy.
"They've not been in that position for a long, long time," he said. "Pressure does really strange things to people. Everybody is expecting a big day for Man City. But for us, we're scrapping for our lives."
QPR has the worst away form in the league, collecting just 11 points all season.
"We feel we can go there and spoil the party," Mackie said. "People have already written us off and think City are going to have a massive day, but we're focused on trying to get something out of the game. It will be nail biting stuff."
Getting a point at City would have extra resonance for QPR defender Anton Ferdinand as it could pave the way for the brother Rio to win the title with United.
"If we do get a result and United and Rio go on to win the title, then I will be chuffed for him," Anton Ferdinand said.
The most thrilling end to a season in the 20 years since the inception of the Premier League will also decide the final Champions League places.
While United and City are assured of the top two spots, Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle are grappling for the next two.
But the fourth-place team could have to settle for a spot in the Europa League if Chelsea, which will finish outside the top four for the first time since 2002, beats Bayern Munich in the Champions League final on May 19.
Arsenal would be certain of third place with a victory at West Bromwich Albion. But with a one-point lead over Tottenham and two over Newcastle, there is little margin for error for Arsenal after drawing its last three games.
"We have known final days like this before, games where we have played for championships, or qualifying for the Champions League," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We are used to coping with that."
Tottenham, which hosts Fulham on Sunday, had been 10 points clear of Arsenal in third place at one stage before spectacularly collapsing.
"We came from a deep position in the league, but if you look at the way we have made it to where we are today, I think it is remarkable," Wenger said.
Victories for Arsenal and Tottenham would render Newcastle's result at Everton meaningless. But the northeast side can finish no lower than fifth in just its second season back in the Premier League, having been tipped to be relegation candidates.
Updated May 10, 2012