Premier League: Title Race, Top Four and Relegation Recap
Despite a somewhat anti-climactic title race, this weekend served up plenty of season-defining Premier League results.
Premier League Champions-Elect
Manchester City can seal the title on two occasions this week without kicking a ball. The Citizens are 10 points clear of local rivals Manchester United, with only two weeks left until the season’s end. Despite having played two games fewer- thanks to the anti-Glazer protests on May 2nd- any hopes of United making a dramatic late push for the title are bleak. A home loss to either fourth place Leicester City on Tuesday, or rivals Liverpool on Thursday will hand the title back to City after a year-long hiatus.
United fans expect manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær to heavily rotate his side for Tuesday night’s matchup against Leicester City. Former-Fox Harry Maguire had played every minute in the league this term, but the United skipper now faces an indefinite spell on the sideline thanks to an ankle knock he suffered during his side’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa last Sunday. Before Tuesday’s match, Solskjær revealed youngsters Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire could start against the Foxes. Additionally, the news of Edinson Cavani’s contract extension has certainly brought much-needed joy to the Reds’ faithful.
Top Four Focus
Leicester City kicked off matchweek 35 with a shocking 4-2 loss to Newcastle on Friday night. This result- coupled with a dismal 1-1 draw against 10-men Southampton a week prior- saw them slip one point behind Chelsea in fourth place. The Foxes will need to erase the ghost of last season’s past and shake off their poor run of form in a hurry as Thomas Tuchel’s side await them in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Chelsea’s superb recent run of form has seen them leapfrog Leicester City in third place. The London side managed to hand Manchester City their fifth loss of the season last Saturday, in a match labeled as the dress rehearsal for the UEFA Champions League Final which is now being hosted at Wembley Stadium.
Having lost only once in the league since Tuchel’s January takeover, and with two major cup finals on the horizon for the Blues, the German looks the odds-on favorite for the Premier League Manager of the Season award, ahead of Pep Guardiola, Brendan Rodgers and West Ham boss David Moyes, who tasted defeat against his former club Everton over the weekend. Chelsea’s next game is a London Derby at home against Arsenal on Wednesday.
Baggies and Cottagers Down
While there’s plenty of spots up for grabs in the top half, the relegation picture is now clear. Sam Allardyce’s West Brom and Scott Parker’s Fulham have been sent packing back to the Championship next season after losing by a two goal deficit in their respective matchweek 35 fixtures.
The Emirates Stadium was the scene for West Brom’s relegation on Sunday evening. Goals by Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pépé gave the Gunners a 2-0 lead heading into the halftime interval. Brazilian talisman Matheus Pereira then gave the Baggies hope, courtesy of a silky solo strike (his fifth goal in the last six games) in the 67th minute, but Willian’s injury-time free-kick sealed West Brom’s fate and gave the Gunners a much-needed 3-1 victory.
Meanwhile, Fulham joined the relegation party alongside already-relegated Sheffield United and West Brom on Monday night, following a 2-0 loss at Turf Moor. Ashley Westwood’s 35th minute tap-in opened the scoring for Burnley, before a scorcher from the red-hot Chris Wood (his EIGHTH goal in the last eight games) on the stroke of halftime spelled trouble for the away side.
The two goals were enough to sink the Cottagers, as Burnley now sit in 14th place on goal difference. Scott Parker’s side appeared to be more resilient in the second half of the season, but a lack of firepower up-front ultimately proved to be the catalyst of their struggles, and the nail in their coffin.