Just how important may Sergio Aguero’s goal against Burnley be for Manchester City come the end of the season. The Argentine’s decisive goal has placed Pep Guardiola’s side back to the summit of the Premier League above Liverpool, with just two games remaining. Continue reading
If Chelsea do indeed end the Premier League season outside of the top 4 then they went out of the battle with a whimper after a 2-2 draw against Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
It was a game that the Blues fought hard for in the first half as they went behind in the early exchanges and by the 25th minute mark the game had already had 4 goals, echoing the excitement of the recent Champions League fixture between Manchester City and Tottenham. But while both of those teams should finish top 4- City is guaranteed of course, Chelsea look like they have blown that chance.
Chelsea are level with Tottenham on points which is all well and good but Tottenham have a spare game which they will play tonight, at home against the bottom club Huddersfield, in what should be an inevitable, comfortable win. There is also the case of Arsenal making that top 4 charge and it looks like both Chelsea and Manchester United will be the teams to miss out on Champions League football next season.
A win was expected against Sean Dyche’s Burnley and perhaps this match where Chelsea are playing a bottom half team at home summarised the clubs season in that they have stayed within their comfort zone and only looked like the team that coach Maurizio Sarri has a vision for when playing in the Europa League.
The Europa League has clearly become a priority for the club and they have been brilliant in a very tough competition. Beating Slavia Prague and scoring 5 goals past them in both legs was superb given how Prague had knocked out Europa League specialists Sevilla in the previous round.
Winning the competition is one major trophy and it is also a gateway into the Champions League even if the club do finish 5th or 6th, so there is all to play for. Chelsea will meet Germans Eintract Frankfurt, who are superb at home but wasteful away and the Blues will be favourites to advance to the final where they would meet either Valencia or a mouth watering clash against fellow Premier League team and Londoners Arsenal. Perhaps the neutral wants the all English final but football has never been that easy to predict.
As for the league, one wonders if the egos of the club have the fight left in them. Chelsea’s next match is away to Manchester United in another potentially explosive game as both will be rolling the dice, perhaps for the final time to reach a top 4 spot. In between their Europa League semi-final they will play Watford at home and round up the season with an away match against Leicester.
It’s very conceivable that Chelsea won’t win another game this season and it is very clear that all of their eggs are in the Europa League basket.
With the Premier League now very much entering the business end of the season, and with just a few matches remaining to decide the respective fates of several teams, there was a full schedule of games in England’s top-flight this past weekend. Once again, the spread of fixtures was great with Newcastle winning at Leicester on Friday night, six games taking place on Saturday, title challengers Man City and Liverpool winning their respective games on Sunday and Arsenal travelling to Watford on Monday. Results this weekend meant that both City and Liverpool are guaranteed to finish first and second in either combination. With that in mind, let’s take a look and see which players performed the best in their position, using a 4-3-3 formation.
This weekend’s Premier League will see the season continuing to take shape as, with just a few games to go, there is still a wide open title race and only one relegation spot left to fill. Liverpool leapfrogged Man City back into top spot last weekend, but the Citizens have a game in hand – just how much of a say will Chelsea and Crystal Palace have on Sunday against the top two? Palace host City while Chelsea travel to Liverpool and so there could well be more twists and turns in this title race yet. Towards the bottom of the table, already-relegated Huddersfield and Fulham both have tricky fixtures, with the Terriers at Tottenham while Fulham host Everton. Let’s take on a 4-3-3 here and see which players will fancy their chances.
With another reduced number of teams in Premier League action this weekend due to the ongoing FA Cup competition, there were only a few sides to select from for this week’s “Best XI” – though there has been a nice spread of action, with games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Everton continued their impressive performances against the big teams this season when they beat Arsenal 1-0 at Goodison Park, while Burnley earned a hugely impressive – and vitally important – away win at Bournemouth. Leicester and Crystal Palace also picked up wins on the road at Huddersfield and Newcastle respectively, while Liverpool’s Friday night trip to Southampton also saw them take the points. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 and see which players performed the best!
The FA Cup semi-finals take place this weekend in England. As a result, there will be only six Premier League fixtures played between Friday and Monday.
St Mary’s is where the action starts with the meeting of Southampton and Liverpool on Friday night. It’s a huge fixture in the Premier League title race with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds looking to go back on top with a win.
At the other end, Burnley will be hoping to take something from their game at Bournemouth as they look to shake off Cardiff City in the battle to survive relegation.
Arsenal and Chelsea are the only two teams from the top-four battle who are in league action over the coming days. Continue reading
At this late-ish stage of the season, Premier League clubs do of course start gaining games in hand over some of their rivals. At the time of writing, for example, league leaders Liverpool have played 32 games, while second-placed Man City have featured in 31 and Arsenal (in fifth) are on 30. Of course, Monday evening games play a part, but so too does the progress of different teams in different competitions. Liverpool now have a two point lead at the top of the table, though City have of course played that one game less. It is now time to look at which players performed the best for their clubs in this past weekend’s round of games, adopting a 4-4-2 formation here. For simplicity, we are calling this week 32 but that may not apply to all teams of course.
With just minutes left Cardiff were beating Chelsea on Sunday in what would have been a massive result for the Bluebirds, and a result they would have deserved after a toothless display by Chelsea. But when the final whistle was blown Cardiff had lost the game 2-1 and manager Neil Warnock was left shocked.
Chelsea grabbed their equaliser through Cesar Azpilicueta but the goal was painfully offside and wasn’t even close. It was a beyond poor decision from the officials and something that could end up costing Cardiff their Premier League status. To add salt to the wounds a returning Ruben Loftus-Cheek got a winner for the Londoners which silenced the city of Cardiff on Sunday night.
At the final whistle Warnock calmly walked up to the officials by the centre circle and just stared at them. Face like red stone, they did what they know best and walked past him as if he wasn’t there. Warnock said that his team play in the best league in the world but he couldn’t say the same thing about the officials, and that he was ‘sickened’ by the match.
It’s easy to have sympathy with Warnock and why VAR has been delayed for a season in the Premier League is the real shocker. There have been many decisions where the officials have got it wrong. True human error will happen, but at these critical moments they can punish a team who have done little wrong at precisely the wrong time. Had VAR been in use it would have flagged up an offside- or at least so we hope, and the score would have remained 1-0. Indeed one could fathom that Chelsea got a new wind after the equaliser and a wrong decision is why they went on to win the game.
VAR will be implemented next season in the Premier League but at the same time one has to question the current rule that we must live by. If everyone in the ground knows a goal to be offside therefore it should never have counted why can’t the FA act after the game. If so Cardiff would have at least got a point yesterday.
As it stands Cardiff look like the favourites to be relegated alongside Huddersfield and Fulham. They are 5 points from safety and their next game is away to Manchester City- yikes! After that they face a massive game away to Burnley, the team directly above them, and lose the City game and the Burnley one and Cardiff could be virtually down. Warnock’s side still have to face Liverpool and Manchester United before the season ends and it does look increasingly like they will be playing Championship football again, was this Chelsea loss the defining moment? It seems so.
Though it is still mathematically possible the grandest of miracles aside, both Huddersfield and Fulham will be relegated from the Premier League this season. To put the clubs fate into more prespective there is 21 points left on the board and Huddersfield are 16 points from safety and Fulham are 13 and we can firmly discount either team from making a stunning comeback.
That leaves just one more team who will be playing in the Championship next season. And here are the main contenders: First up is the team in 18th and currently going down Cardiff City who have 28 points. Their last league game ended up being a massive result for Neil Warnock’s side who beat West Ham 2-0. Had they lost that game they would have lost touch with safety and been five points behind. Instead there is just a two point gap to the two other contenders.
Both Burnley and Southampton have 30 points each, although it is interesting to note that Southampton has a game in hand over Burnley and so does Cardiff. So out of these 3 teams who is the favourite to go down? The bookmakers have made Cardiff the favourites since there is a 2 point gap, but the best gage of this surely are the clubs remaining fixtures.
Cardiff will have to play 4 of their 7 games away from home and they have some very tough fixtures. Just look at their next two for evidence, Chelsea followed by Manchester City. They also have to play Liverpool at home and finish the season away to Manchester United. It is unlikely they will be picking up many more points although they will fancy getting maximum points against Fulham and Crystal Palace- the Palace match is at home and by the time they face Fulham, the Cottagers should be properly relegated.
Burnley have some tough games also and it should be noted that in a few weeks time they will come head to head with Cardiff in a fantastic ‘six pointer’ which will be played at home. But Sean Dyche’s team have a nightmare run in that sees the last 4 league games having to play Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal. That really could seal their fate.
Finally there is Southampton who out of the three teams look on paper to have the easiest run in and if they can continue their solid form they should be fine. The Saints only have to face one top 4 side in Liverpool in the run in and even then they will be at home. But they have a smooth run in which includes home games against Bournemouth and Huddersfield and they should be safe this season.
The relegation battle is hotting up, that is evidently clear and it seems like a straight run off between Burnley and Cardiff, our tip is that Burnley with such a tough final run in may just be the third and final team to be relegated.
It’s FA Cup weekend coming up so there are just five EPL matches to look forward to.
Saturday’s games see Bournemouth host Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United at the Vitality Stadium while Huddersfield Town make the trip to London to face West Ham United.
Brendan Rodgers brings his Leicester team to face Burnley at Turf Moor at the same time. Burnley have lost their last three league games while Leicester won 3-1 against Fulham last time out.
On Sunday, Liverpool travel to meet Fulham as The Reds look to go back to the top of the Premier League, temporarily at least. Everton play host to Chelsea later that day. The Toffees have won just once in their last six games. Chelsea drew 1-1 with Wolves last Sunday.