Steven Gerrard is insistent that Aston Villa’s final day clash with Manchester City holds no extra significance, despite the chance to help Liverpool win the Premier League trophy.
The Reds legend, now in the top job at Villa Park, knows that if his charges can upset the odds and get a result at the Etihad, his old side could snatch the title in dramatic fashion. It’s a trophy which infamously eluded Gerrard during his stunning Anfield playing career, but his full focus is getting a result for his current side and not his former one.
“We’ll go out at the weekend and give it everything we’ve got to try and get points for Aston Villa and our supporters,” he explained. “If that inevitably helps Liverpool, fantastic. But my priority is to try and get points for Aston Villa.”
Gerrard is coming to the end of his first season in the Villa dugout, but after guiding them away from relegation concerns, he has been frustrated by inconsistency from his players. Replacing Dean Smith when the Midlands outfit were 16th, they go into the final game just two places higher – albeit with a sizable gap to the relegation zone.
And there is plenty of internal motivation for Gerrard and his players, with the slim possibility of a top-half finish still on offer. Should they overcome City, and the four teams directly above them lose, they could yet finish in a respectable 10th position.
“We will go there as best prepared as we can and try to make it as difficult as we can. Why? Because we want to be in a better place than 14th and we need some more points.”
Gerrard has ambitions to turn Villa into European contenders, with the hope of becoming the best of the rest sooner rather than later. And the image of finishing in the top-half could make his summer recruitment drive even easier.
But it’s not only the aesthetics of a top-half finish, the financial rewards between the two positions are drastic, with Villa eyeing the possibility of a £12million windfall if results go their way.
For each place in the Premier League table a club can pocket as much as £3m, meaning a positive result will help significantly boost the coffers ahead of their own summer transfer plans… with Gerrard keen on making big changes to boost Villa’s bid to push for Europe next term.
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On the other side of the M62, another side from the West Midlands will be hoping to have their say on the title race, as Wolves head to Liverpool hope to spring what would be an almighty surprise. Bruno Lage has seen his side’s form fall off a cliff in recent months, losing eight of their last 11 and dropping out of contention for the European places altogether.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Wolves were in line for a bonus payment from the Merseysiders should they win their second Premier League title, due to a clause inserted in the Diogo Jota transfer, But they have their own financial incentives to pick up a positive result, knowing they could finish as high as eighth – or as low as 10th.