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Manchester City's Erling Haaland shoots a penalty kick to score during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Luton Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, on April 13.Rui Vieira/The Associated Press

With a certain inevitability, Manchester City is suddenly in charge of the Premier League title race.

Arsenal and Liverpool both produced lethargic performances under pressure and lost home matches on Sunday, leaving City – seeking an unprecedented fourth straight English top-flight title – with a two-point lead with six games left.

After Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace for its first league defeat at Anfield in 18 months, Arsenal was beaten 2-0 by Aston Villa for its first league defeat in 2024.

With the three contenders entering this weekend separated by one point, this season’s title race was being billed as the best in years – and potentially one for the ages.

There might still be twists and turns but many will be ready to already crown City, which beat Luton 5-1 on Saturday and rarely drops points in the final months of title campaigns, as the likely top team in England.


It was around this time of the year that Arsenal started to implode in 2023, as a typically fast-finishing City reeled in Mikel Arteta’s team.

Has it happened again? Playing between a doubleheader against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, Arsenal’s players certainly lacked their usual spark as goals by Leon Bailey in the 84th and Ollie Watkins – who grew up supporting Arsenal – earned fourth-place Villa a big win in its own bid for Champions League qualification.

“It was going to happen at some stage,” Arteta said. “With the games we had, it was going to happen. Now how we react to it is going to be the key.”

Since losing to Fulham on Dec. 31, Arsenal had won 10 of its 11 games in the league and drawn the other one.

“With the amount of games we have won in a row, in any other league in the world you are six or eight points clear,” Arteta said. “It’s not the case now but this is the challenge.”

It will have been a satisfying victory for Villa manager Unai Emery, who was fired by Arsenal in 2019 after 18 months in charge as long-time coach Arsene Wenger’s replacement.

Arsenal has the best defence in England, but has conceded four goals at home in the space of five days after a 2-2 draw with Bayern on Tuesday.

A few hours earlier at Anfield, Liverpool – playing three days after losing 3-0 to Atalanta in the Europa League quarter-finals – failed to respond to going behind to Eberechi Eze’s 14th-minute goal.

Liverpool’s season is falling apart. It wasn’t long ago that the team was on for a quadruple of trophies in Jürgen Klopp’s final season in charge, with the English League Cup already secured.

Now, the Reds are out of the FA Cup after losing to Manchester United in the quarter-finals last month, are facing elimination in the Europa League, and are now the third-favourite in the Premier League.

“We feel really, really rubbish,” Klopp said. “We need a bit of time to process that. It’s a really bad moment ... we have to see how we react.”

“If we play like we did in the first half, why should we win the league? If we play like we did in the second half, yes we can pick up points here and there. If we play as good as we can, we will go for it.”

City, which is on a 27-match unbeaten run in all competitions, is on 73 points and has the easier run-in to Arsenal and Liverpool, on paper anyway.

Arsenal and Liverpool are on 71, with Arsenal ahead on goal difference.

West Ham loses

Like Liverpool, West Ham has had a tough few days in the Europa League and Premier League. After becoming the latest team to succumb to Bayer Leverkusen with a 2-0 loss in the Europa quarter-finals on Thursday, West Ham then lost by the same score to Fulham to hurt its ambitions of getting back in continental competition next season. David Moyes’s team is in eighth place, outside the European qualification spots as it stands. Brazil midfielder Andreas Pereira scored either side of halftime for Fulham, which is in 12th place – safe from relegation but likely too far away from getting into Europe.

Tottenham and Man United advance to Women’s FA Cup final

LONDON – Tottenham and Manchester United will contest the Women’s FA Cup final in England. Tottenham beat Leicester 2-1 to reach the title match for the first time and Man United won by the same score against Chelsea, whose hopes of capturing the Super League-Champions League-FA Cup treble were ruined. Chelsea – managed by Emma Hayes, the incoming coach of the U.S. women’s national team – recently lost the final of the Women’s English League Cup to Arsenal. It leaves United with the chance of winning a first ever major trophy. The FA Cup will take place at Wembley Stadium on May 12. In English Women’s Super League action, Arsenal beat Bristol City 5-0 in Borehamwood, England.

Bayer Leverkusen wins first Bundesliga title

LEVERKUSEN, Germany – Bayer Leverkusen has won the Bundesliga for the first time, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as champion. Florian Wirtz scored a hat trick as Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen beat Werder Bremen 5-0 Sunday to secure the club’s first-ever German league title with five games left. Leverkusen leads second-place Bayern Munich by 16 points. Fans had already stormed onto the field when Leverkusen scored its fourth goal with seven minutes to go, and the final minutes were played in thick red smoke from supporters’ pyrotechnics while players on Leverkusen’s bench clapped along to songs, danced and hugged one another. The fifth goal in the 90th brought more fans onto the field – hundreds this time – and the referee ended the game amid confusion and jubilation. Thousands of supporters crowded the field waving flags, flares and cardboard copies of the Bundesliga trophy.

Wrexham gains promotion to English soccer’s third division

WREXHAM, Wales – The sequel turned out to be just as good for Wrexham. The Welsh team co-owned by actor Ryan Reynolds clinched promotion to the third tier of English soccer thanks to a 6-0 home win over Forest Green on Saturday. That’s back-to-back promotions for the team since it was thrust into the spotlight after the investment by its Hollywood owners. It is two tiers away from the Premier League. Wrexham is second in League Two, four points behind leader Stockport, which also clinched promotion on Saturday. The top three teams are automatically promoted to League One, and fourth-placed MK Dons can no longer catch Wrexham.

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