Level race only the sixth in football league

LONDON - The race for the English title could finish next Sunday with the top two teams level on points for only the sixth time since league football began in 1888.

LONDON - The race for the English title could finish next Sunday with the top two teams level on points for only the sixth time since league football began in 1888.

Chelsea's 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday put them level with leaders Manchester United on 84 points with both teams having one match to play.

Chelsea are at home to Bolton Wanderers while Manchester United make the short trip to Wigan Athletic. A victory for United will ensure they retain their title and become champions for the 17th time because they have a vastly superior goal difference to Chelsea.

Chelsea need to get more points than United from the last game to take the title for the third time in four seasons.

The race is the closest since United won the 1998-99 title from Arsenal by a single point - but could well be decided on goal difference.

After their 4-1 home win over West Ham United on Saturday they have a goal difference advantage of 17 over Avram Grant's men.

There have only been five previous occasions when the top two teams finished level on points in the title race:

l 1923-24 Huddersfield Town beat Cardiff City;

l 1949-50 Portsmouth ahead of Wolverhampton Wanderers;

l 1952-53 Arsenal beat Preston North End;

l 1964-65 Manchester United beat Leeds United; and

l 1988-89 Arsenal beat Liverpool.

Arsenal edged Liverpool on goals scored in 1989, Michael Thomas' last-minute strike giving the Gunners a 2-0 win and securing the title at Anfield.

While there is bound to be plenty of tension at both the JJB Stadium and Stamford Bridge on Sunday, those matches will not end this season's rivalry between United and Chelsea.

They meet again in the Champions League final in Moscow 10 days later with an even greater prize at stake.

Looking ahead to next week Chelsea captain John Terry said he was sure that Wigan, coached by former United stalwart Steve Bruce, would "do the Premier League justice". "They came to the Bridge and put on a great performance and I think they will do the Premiership justice. We've still got a tough game against Bolton but if we pick up three points we've got a very good chance." - Reuters

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