How do you explain Liverpool’s situation? They have amassed more points on the log than Sir Alex Ferguson ever managed, also their highest ever in their rich history and are still very likely to miss out on the title, worse still, Liverpool were roundly beaten by a more precise Barcelona side in Europe on Wednesday, making it a case of lose all for Jurgen Klopp and his Kops.
It’s a matter of one point, but can either of Leicester and Brighton stop the champions? What is at stake for Leicester? Seventh spot maybe but that can’t be compared to the pains of coming so close to beat a long standing record of champions failing to successfully defend their title since United last did ten seasons ago, City failed in Europe, quadruple dreams quashed, Leicester can’t stand in their way on Monday.
Before City files out, Liverpool will have the chance to heap pressure on the Citizens with a win over Newcastle on Saturday. Rafael Benitez has steered Newcastle to safety and most definitely won’t come out so strongly against Liverpool, except the Kops probably think they can usurp the 3:0 deficit at Nou Camp next Tuesday; realistically that can’t happen, their UCL run has come to an end, they must prioritize the league which has always been their holy grail, their life depends on their trip to St. James’s Park.
For Manchester City, they only have one job, beat Leicester, beat Brighton and retain the title, fatigue has set in as evident in recent games but the injection of freshness in Phil Foden and the timely spark of Leroy Sane will help them cross the line. Leicester have three points to cover up for if they want to finish seventh, they might have to rely on other results to achieve that; The Foxes have beaten City before, they can do it again…Not just this time.
Burnley aren’t in the relegation dogfight anymore, but they really weren’t when they went to Stamford Bridge and stood up to Chelsea, they really weren’t when they nearly dented City’s hopes last Sunday at Turf Moor, Everton must be wary of them this weekend if they want to finish as the best of the rest, it’s actually not in their hands, Wolves must lose and Leicester must stutter too for them to stand a chance, but their part must be done first on Friday as they open the flurry of games for the weekend.
Wolves host Fulham in the sunshine of the Molineux on Saturday and will be very aware of the form of the Lily Whites, Scott Parker’s side has won their last three without conceding, that’s a title chasing form and you’d wonder where this quality was when they needed it, in hindsight one can argue why they handed Claudio Ranieri the job in the first place but with their fate already sealed, they want to finish strong and probably even catch Cardiff, up to Wolves to give everything to keep their seventh position, it starts with a strong showing here.
Chelsea’s equalizer on Sunday meant United will now need more than their own results to sneak into top four, they will hope Arsenal lose to Brighton and Chelsea lose to Watford, they might even need Spurs to falter in case the other two step up, highly unlikely but in football, as long as it’s mathematically possible, anything can happen so teams keep fighting but Huddersfield also want to show they have character, United must come through on Sunday and heap pressure on the three London clubs.
Cardiff’s situation is precarious, they lost at Fulham last weekend in a game they needed to win to edge closer to Brighton, their hopes were dashed when Ryan Babbel blasted home from distance and ultimately handed Brighton the safety advantage, they face Crystal Palace at the Cardiff City stadium and now must win and hope the Seagulls lose, they however have to remember that Palace are deadlier on the road, no margin for errors and they can’t sit back and expect Wilfred Zaha and Co not to run at them, they must not concede, because scoring against the Eagles is never easy, even the biggest of the boys labor hard against them, that says a lot about their resolute defending and the great work Roy Hodgson has done on the team; for Cardiff, it’s a case of hard luck, they were severally on the receiving end of wrong calls by the center referee and the Emiliano Sala mishap took goals away from them, they are firm favorites to go down especially if they can’t better Brighton’s result this weekend.
Brighton are away at Arsenal, the Gunners have lost three in a row, conceding 9 in the process but they came back from a goal down to beat Valencia in Europa on Thursday, signs of their Achilles heels were very obvious on the night but the quality of their forwards saw them through, now they’re firmly on their way to the final, but they still have businesses to do in the league, they can still make top four if either of Spurs and Chelsea falter, it was firmly in their hands before they went on a losing streak and now they have to claw it back.
Tottenham are away to Bournemouth, ordinarily this should be a one way affair but the result the white half of North London got at home against Ajax means they will now go all out in Amsterdam to grind out a win; that was the first time any Dutch side would get the better of Spurs and they now have it all to do in the second leg, priorities mean Bournemouth can get a result if Spurs focus too much on midweek, and why not? They have a very good chance with Son back after suspension and Harry Kane nearing a return, it would be heartbreaking for them to do so much to oust City and now crash to these hungry cubs from Amsterdam.
For Chelsea, it’s a conundrum, they have an away goal to rely on in the second leg against Frankfurt while they have the top four advantage too, but a slip will get Arsenal into it and now heap heavy pressure on the game on Thursday, the confusion is where their priorities lie, in Europe or in the top four hustles?
Just two rounds to go, everyone knows what to do, the season is winding to an end but few scores are still to be settled, predictions are up next…
|Fixtures||Verdict||Player to watch|
|Everton vs Burnley||Everton to win or draw||Richarlison|
|Bournemouth vs Spurs||Bournemouth to win or draw||Callum Wilson|
|Westham vs Southampton||Westham to win or draw||Mikhail Antonio|
|Wolves vs Fulham||Wolves to win||Raul Jimenez|
|Newcastle vs Liverpool||Liverpool to win||Mo Salah|
|Chelsea vs Watford||Both teams to score||Eden Hazard|
|Cardiff vs Crystal Palace||Palace to win or draw||Wilfried Zaha|
|Manchester United vs Huddersfield||Manchester United to win||Marcus Rashford|
|Arsenal vs Brighton||Arsenal to win||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang|
|Manchester City vs Leicester City||Man City to win||Sergio Aguero|
Strictly the writer’s opinion… Gamble responsibly.