EPL Round Up
Two weeks is all that’s left in the Premier League season after this weekend’s action. There’s still much to be decided in the league on all fronts, so let’s take a look at where everything stands with two weeks left.
Tight Title Race
The Premier League title race looks like it will indeed go down to the final week of the season. Manchester City is officially back on top after winning the Manchester Derby midweek and topping Burnley 1-0 on Sunday on a goal that crossed the goal line by less than three centimeters. Meanwhile, Liverpool kept pace by dismantling Huddersfield on Friday.
With two games left to play, City remains in control of its own destiny with 92 points, while Liverpool trails at 91 points. Man City will play home against Leicester next week and finish up away at Brighton. Liverpool will travel to Newcastle this week and finish the season at home against Wolverhampton. However, they also have to play two games against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals between now and the end of the season.
A Little Concerned
One concern for Liverpool heading into the final two weeks of the season is the health of Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian picked up a muscle injury in training last week and missed Friday’s game against Huddersfield. Jurgen Klopp described the injury as a small muscle tear and doesn’t appear to be worried. The manager declared that Firmino is not out for the season, although whether he could miss Wednesday’s game against Barcelona and perhaps next week’s league game with Newcastle remains to be seen.
One Massive Point
Brighton & Hove Albion earned one massive point over the weekend by playing Newcastle to a draw. That result took them four points clear of Cardiff City, who suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Fulham. The 4-point cushion and the goal differential advantage for Brighton means that Cardiff needs to win both of their remaining games against Crystal Palace and Manchester United to have any chance of survival. Brighton will play at Arsenal next week and host Manchester City the final week of the season, so they may not get another point the rest of the season, leaving the door slightly ajar for Cardiff.
Who Wants It?
The fight for 3rd and 4th place and the two remaining Champions League spots has been the antithesis of the title race. Tottenham beat Bright midweek to remain in 3rd place, but that was the only win this week by one of the four teams battling for those last two spots. Spurs lost to West Ham on Saturday, Arsenal fell to Leicester on Sunday, and Chelsea played Manchester United to a 1-1 draw. With two games left, Tottenham remains in good shape with 70 points, Chelsea has 68 points, Arsenal has 66 points, and United has 65 points. The saving grace for United is that they’re the only team of the four that doesn’t have to play midweek games in Europe the next two weeks, which could be a slight advantage for the Red Devils.
After a series of subpar performances late in the season, Manchester United appears more intent than ever to move on from goalkeeper David De Gea after the season. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has stuck with the Spanish international, although he gave up a soft goal to Chelsea on Sunday, depriving United of three massive points. There are now reports that United is considering exercising the out clause of Atletico Madrid goalie Jan Oblak as a way to replace De Gea. Of course, doing that would come at a cost of €120 million (over $133 million). In any event, De Gea appears to be on thin ice at Old Trafford.
We’ve known for weeks that Fulham and Huddersfield will leave the Premier League after the season, and now we know that Norwich City and Sheffield United will replace them. Both secured promotion from the Championship after results this past weekend. Norwich needs just one point in their final game to win the Championship title. The Canaries had a three-year stint in the Premier League that ended in 2014. They gained immediate promotion, rejoining the Premier League in 2015-16 but went straight down again.
Meanwhile, Sheffield United earned promotion in part because of a controversial draw between Leeds United and Aston Villa. Leeds allowed Villa to score their goal in the 1-1 draw after Leeds scored with a Villa player on the ground rather than playing the ball out of bounds. It was a controversial and surreal moment, but the Leeds draw allowed Sheffield United to clinch at least second place and automatic promotion. Sheffield was an original Premier League team but has spent just one season in the top flight since 1994, an 18th-place finish in 2006-2007. Both Leeds and Aston Villa will be part of the four-team playoff for the final promotion spot.
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