x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Manchester City's 44-year dream almost reality

Fans across the country will be crowded in front of the television tonight to see if Manchester City can win the English Premier League title.

Manchester City's Yaya Toure celebrates one of his two goals against Newcastle United last Sunday. Fans will be hoping he performs as well in tonight's title clash with QPR.
Manchester City's Yaya Toure celebrates one of his two goals against Newcastle United last Sunday. Fans will be hoping he performs as well in tonight's title clash with QPR.

DUBAI // Football fans will be crowded in front of television sets tonight to see if Manchester City can claim the English Premier League title.

The team are set to make one of the greatest comebacks of the year and need only to beat struggling Queens Park Rangers at home to win the league for the first time since 1968.

Just five weeks ago, Manchester City trailed Manchester United by eight points and few believed they had a chance.

"We had given up. Nobody ever expected us to catch up," said Mohammed Ajmal Bhatti, 44, from the UK. "That's why this game is literally make-or-break. It's what we've been waiting for, for 44 years."

Mr Bhatti will watch the game at home, on Abu Dhabi Sports, with his 17-year-old son.

All 10 Premier League matches will kick off at 6pm this evening UAE time, with not only the title clash but crucial relegation issues to be decided on the last match day of the season.

Mr Bhatti said the atmosphere might be too fraught to watch the game in a bar.

"I don't think we could take the tension," he said, adding that things could get a "bit carried away" with the combustive mix of fans. "It's a scary day for everyone."

A screening of the game will be held exclusively for Manchester City fans at The Clubhouse, a bar at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.

Faisal Al Balooshi, an Emirati, has already confirmed his attendance, which is organised by the official UAE Sky Blue Fan Club.

"It will be a tough game and I am nervous," he said. "This is the Premier League and no one knows what will happen."

He would be delighted by a win for City, under UAE control since 2008.

"It will reflect well on Sheikh Mansour if the team won," he said. "He spent millions and now in a few years we win the league."

Manchester City's captain, Vincent Kompany, sent a special message of thanks to the many fans in the UAE. "We know how important this season is, as I get calls from all over the world asking if we can do it," he said.

"You cannot escape it and we all are very thankful of the support Manchester City has from fans both here in Manchester and abroad.

"Support is growing in the UAE all the time and it is great that so many new fans are getting behind the team. We want as many of you cheering us on this Sunday as possible."

Darren Ball, the founder of the Abu Dhabi Blues supporters club, has organised a Red and Blue party at his home for about 50 fans of both Manchester City and Manchester United, who will be playing away to Sunderland.

He has arranged two TV sets in the house, one for each set of fans, but does not expect any problems.

"It's going to be very tense, but it should be good," he said. "There's a lot at stake. The nerves have been kicking in for about two weeks now."

mcroucher@thenational.ae