The Premier League will take a break next weekend for the FA Cup, but this weekend’s action didn’t disappoint. Let’s check out the highlights and headlines from the past weekend.
Sadly, we’ll begin with the tragedy that has consumed the Premier League for the past few weeks. Last Wednesday, a body found in the wreckage of a plane in the English Channel was confirmed to be that of Emiliano Sala. The plane carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson disappeared on January 21. The Argentine striker had recently completed a record-setting move to Cardiff City. While realistic hope of the pair being found alive was lost long ago, it does bring some sense of closure to the situation for those close to Sala.
Making Their Move
While Cardiff City continues to mourn the passing of Sala, the club has managed to push their way out of the relegation zone. The Bluebirds gave up a 91st-minute equalizer at Southampton on Saturday, only to get a game-winner from Kenneth Zohore just a couple of minutes later. It was Cardiff’s second straight win, taking them to 25 points and enabling them to leap over both Southampton and Newcastle to get out of the bottom-3.
Of course, the work is far from over for Cardiff City and half a dozen other teams. While Huddersfield and Fulham are buried deep in the relegation zone, there are six teams sitting between 24 and 27 points that are fighting to avoid the last relegation spot, which is currently owned by Southampton.
A rough stretch for Chelsea and manager Maurizio Sarri got exponentially worse on Sunday when the Blues lost 6-0 at Manchester City. Within 25 minutes, Chelsea had fallen behind 4-0, leaving them no hope for a comeback effort. The result came less than two weeks after Chelsea lost to Bournemouth 4-0 and will no doubt ramp up the pressure on Sarri to get things turned around. Chelsea remains tied with Arsenal for fifth place, just one point out of the top-4. However, there are clearly fundamental problems at the London-based club at the moment that have to be sorted out quickly.
I Know Something You Don’t Know
To make matters worse for Chelsea, the uncertainty of Eden Hazard’s future is hanging over the club. Hazard told a French radio station last week that he knows what he’ll do with regard to a summer transfer but will not share the news publicly. There’s been speculation for quite some time that Hazard would leave Stamford Bridge, with Real Madrid being the most likely destination. In fact, some were surprised a move wasn’t made after last summer’s World Cup. At this point, it’d be a shock if Hazard signed an extension with Chelsea, but the 28-year-old Belgian international won’t be sharing his choice until the summer.
How the Odds Have Changed
With their crushing defeat of Chelsea and a mid-week win over Everton, Manchester City are now at the top of the Premier League standings due to a slight goal difference edge over Liverpool. It’s worth noting that City has played one more game than the Reds to this point. However, many oddsmakers are starting to list the reigning champions as the favorites to win the Premier League title again this season. Even after a recent slip-up against Newcastle, Manchester City has looked like a team in championship form whereas Liverpool has been far from their best prior to their 3-0 win against Bournemouth over the weekend.
Three Team Race
Still lurking in the shadows of the title race is Tottenham Hotspur. Still playing without the injured Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Tottenham beat Leicester City 3-1 over the weekend to keep pace with Liverpool and Man City. Spurs remain just five points back of the co-leaders and have won all four of their Premier League games since Kane went down with an injury. The odds aren’t in their favor, but they remain a factor in the title race.
The Comeback Nears
It’s now looking more and more certain that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be able to make an impact on the title race. Liverpool has added the midfielder to their Champions League roster, indicating his return is imminent. The club expects the Ox to return to full training later this month and could make his return to Jurgen Klopp’s side by late March. He’s still less than 10 months removed from a torn ACL but has made incredible progress in his recovery. Nothing is a guarantee at this point, but having another body in the midfield certainly won’t hurt Liverpool late in the season.