MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After trailing for most of the season, Manchester City is set to be in first place when it matters most.
City scored four goals in the final 26 minutes to rout Aston Villa 4-0 Wednesday night, moving into position to win its second Premier League title in three years with only a draw this weekend.
Edin Dzeko scored from close range in the 64th and 72nd minutes, Stevan Jovetic added a goal in the 89th and Yaya Toure capped the victory by scoring on a solo run in the third minute of stoppage time.
City (26-6-5) moved two points ahead of Liverpool (25-6-6) and led for just the 11th day since the season began Aug. 17 — compared to 59 days for Liverpool, 64 for third-place Chelsea and 128 for fourth-place Arsenal, according to STATS.
City hosts West Ham on Sunday, the season’s final day, and Liverpool is home against Newcastle. City has a goal difference 13 better than Liverpool’s after reaching 100 league goals.
“In the way we play, I am very happy to win the title this way,” said City manager Manuel Pellegrini, speaking as if the trophy already was City’s. “There are different ways to win titles — I choose this one with attractive football … Maybe you can win titles other ways. For me, the aesthetic part is very important.”
Toure joined Chelsea’s Frank Lampard (2009-10) as the only other central midfielder to score 20 or more goals since the Premier League era began in 1992-93. Chelsea (24-6-7) was eliminated by City’s win.
Sunderland (10-19-8) won 2-0 against West Bromwich Albion (7-15-15) on goals by Jack Colback and Fabio Borini to guarantee another season in the Premier League and virtually assure Norwich will be the third team relegated along with Fulham and Cardiff. Norwich (8-20-9) is 18th with 33 points, three behind West Brom, and West Brom has a goal difference 17 better.
Sunderland, which inserted American forward Jozy Altidore in the 61st minute, has 13 points from its last five matches — including wins over Chelsea and Manchester United and a tie at City. The Black Cats are only the Premier League team to be last at Christmas and avoid relegation.
“I don’t know if you will see something similar ever again,” said Gus Poyet, who took over as Sunderland’s manager on Oct. 8 after Paolo Di Canio was fired.
Paris Saint-Germain clinched its fourth French league title and second in a row when second-place Monaco tied 1-1 against French Cup champion Guingamp.
PSG players smiled, shook hands in the tunnel and did high-fives before they took the field for a 2-1 home loss to Rennes in a late game.
PSG (25-3-8) has 83 points, seven ahead of Monaco (22-4-10) with two games left.
“The stadium was full and we couldn’t win, unfortunately. But we won the title and that’s the main thing,” PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye said.
The Spanish league title race took another strange twist when Real Madrid failed to hold a second-half lead and tied 1-1 at Real Valladolid.
After star Cristiano Ronaldo left clutching his right leg in the eighth minute, Sergio Ramos put Real ahead when he scored on a free kick over a defensive wall in the 35th — the defender’s fifth goal in four games. But Humberto Osorio tie it on a header off a corner kick in the 86th for Valladolid.
Atletico Madrid (28-4-4), seeking its first league title since 1996, leads defending champion Barcelona (27-5-4) by three points with two games left, with Real Madrid (26-4-5) another point back. All three contenders stumbled last weekend, with Atletico losing, and Real Madrid and Barcelona drawing.
Barcelona would win the title with victories Sunday at Elche and at home against Atletico Madrid on May 18. Atletico hosts Malaga on Sunday, and Real Madrid finishes at Celta Viga on Sunday and home against Espanyol on May 18. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head meetings.
“We had the game controlled. We didn’t have the mental energy to finish these games. There were mistakes in these games,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose team tied consecutive league games after routing Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League final.
“It’s going to be very difficult” to win the title, Ancelotti added.
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