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[EPL] MatchWeek 37 – Penultimate Week Musings

So, we are down to two games that will decide not just the champion but also the European slots and final relegation spot. In the 36 MatchWeeks gone by, we have seen a record 31 times that the top spot has changed hands. And, if the race for the title this season has been characterised by remarkable consistency, the battle for the final two top-four places has recently devolved into a farcical exhibition of failure. There are two big questions yet to be answered. Who wants the title more and does anyone actually want to finish third? 

City knows all they have to do is win their final two games and they are champions again, while Liverpool need some sort of slip up. Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United on the other hand have been doing remarkably good impressions of teams that do not want to play UEFA Champions League football next season. None of them seem overly capable of winning anything right now and that’s just fine for Spurs who could fall into third place at this rate.

It’s the best and worst part of the Premier League! How unpredictable these final weeks can be as it becomes what Sir Alex Ferguson once described as “squeaky bum time”.

Liverpool will be looking to maintain the pressure on their title rivals by re-taking top spot with a win against Newcastle United on Saturday, while,  City host Leicester in the last game of MW37 on Monday night. The tension is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Spurs and Chelsea could secure top-four finishes with victories over Bournemouth and Watford respectively though and following Fulham’s win over Cardiff last week – the South Walians now have a 4 point deficit to make-up on Brighton. Meanwhile, lying three points outside the top four with only two matches to play, Manchester United can ill-afford a slip-up when they visit bottom side Huddersfield Town on Sunday – but, the Red Devils have historically found victories hard to come by in their final away fixture of the Premier League campaign.

SCHEDULE

RESULTS – MATCHWEEK 36

POINTS TABLE

WHAT WE LEARNED IN MATCHWEEK 36
Andrew Robertson is only one away from a PL defender record while Callum Wilson has become the king of scoring and assisting

Liverpool 5-0 Huddersfield Town
No Premier League defender has assisted more goals in a season than Andrew Robertson’s 11, level with Leighton Baines in 2010/11 and Andy Hinchcliffe in 1994/95
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 West Ham United
All 26 of Michail Antonio’s Premier League goals have come from inside the penalty area
Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton
Everton’s 22 shots are their most in an away Premier League match since doing the same v Arsenal in May 2017
Fulham 1-0 Cardiff City
Ryan Babel’s 17th Premier League goal in total was his first from outside the box
Southampton 3-3 AFC Bournemouth
Callum Wilson has scored and assisted in six different Premier League matches this season, more than any other player
Watford 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
All five of Diogo Jota’s assists this season have been for Raul Jimenez, the most exclusively for one player by another in PL history
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Newcastle United
Glenn Murray provided his first Premier League assist for Brighton and his first since April 2015 for Crystal Palace v Sunderland
Leicester City 3-0 Arsenal
Arsenal have lost three consecutive league matches while conceding at least three goals each time for the first time since May 1966
Burnley 0-1 Manchester City
This is only the second season in English top-flight history where two sides have earned 90+ points, after Arsenal, with 94, and Leeds United, with 91,in the 1970/71 campaign, with points having been adjusted to three points for a win
Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea
Juan Mata became the second player to score for both clubs in Premier League meetings between Chelsea and Man Utd, after Mark Hughes

MATCHWEEK 37: KEY FACTS
Man Utd seek rare win in final road tri – Top-four chasers have not won their last away match of a season since 2011/12 as they prepare to visit Huddersfield

Everton vs Burnley
Everton can secure a fifth successive PL clean sheet at home for the first time since a run of seven at Goodison Park between March and September 2013
AFC Bournemouth vs Spurs
Son Heung-min has scored five times in his last four matches against the Cherries, equalling his best goal tally against any PL side, alongside his five strikes against Watford
West Ham vs Southampton
A different West Ham player has scored a brace in their last three PL matches against Southampton, with Chicharito, Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson all doing so
Wolves vs Fulham
Wolves can become the first promoted team to win 16 matches in a PL campaign since Reading in 2006/07
Cardiff vs Crystal Palace
Wilfried Zaha has scored five goals in his last six PL away matches, while eight of his nine strikes in total this season have come on the road
Newcastle vs Liverpool
After a run of six PL matches without a goal, Mohamed Salah has scored four in his last four
Chelsea vs Watford
Watford have scored more PL goals against Chelsea in the last four seasons than against any other side, with 13, and more at Stamford Bridge than any other visitors, with seven
Huddersfield vs Man Utd
Man Utd are aiming to win their last PL away match of the season for the first time since 2011/12, having since drawn five of those fixtures and lost one
Arsenal vs Brighton
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one PL goal away from becoming the sixth Arsenal player to score 20 in a campaign and the first since Alexis Sanchez in 2016/17
Man City vs Leicester
Leicester are looking for their first ever PL away win on a Monday in 12 attempts, having drawn three and lost eight such matches   Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

GAME REVIEW – Our Super 8
Everton vs Burnley
Two sides that have enjoyed strong second halves of the season face off at Merseyside as Everton host Burnley. Everton sit 9th in the Premier League table following their gritty draw at Crystal Palace last time out and they only sit 4 points behind 7th placed Wolves and may have one-eye on the Europa League next season. Burnley pushed Manchester City all the way last time out but it was ultimately in vain. Their strong recent form has elevated them to 15th in the Premier League table and they look to have something to build upon next season. This should be an entertaining clash with Burnley sure to be difficult to break down but Everton are a very strong side at home.

Our Super 8
Everton: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurðsson
Burnley: Joe Hart, Chris Wood, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, James Tarkowski

Bournemouth vs Spurs
Two entertaining sides face off on the South coast as Bournemouth host Tottenham. The Cherries have endured a tough second half to the season but have never been threatened by relegation and their 3-3 draw with Southampton last time out was indicative of their inconsistent form since the turn of the year. Tottenham meanwhile have the small matter of a Champions League semi-final to endure – with Ajax sure to provide a stern test but their wobbles in the Premier League are opening up the race for the top 4 this term. Their defeat to West Ham last time out will worry Mauricio Pochettino and he will be hoping for a response here. Tottenham have a lot on their plate currently and Bournemouth could get something here.

Our Super 8
Bournemouth: Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, David Brooks, Junior Stanislas
Spurs: Kieran Trippier, Juan Foyth,  Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen

West Ham vs Southampton
Two teams that have secured their Premier League statuses face off in East London as West Ham host Southampton. The Hammers sit 11th under Manuel Pellegrini and will still be reveling in their 1-0 win at Tottenham last time out. It has been a solid season for the Irons who will want to give their fans something to cheer about. Southampton sit 7 points clear of the drop zone following their entertaining 3-3 draw with Bournemouth and their improvements during the second half of the season have been impressive. They will be hoping to keep their good run of form going as they look to generate momentum going into next season. This will be an open game which West Ham should dominate at home and pick up all three points from.

Our Super 8
West Ham: Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson, Marko Arnautović, Michail Antonio
Southampton: Angus Gunn, Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings, Shane Long

Wolves vs Fulham
Two promoted sides that have experienced very different seasons face off as Wolves host Fulham. Wolves picked up yet another result last time out, winning 2-1 at Watford to propel themselves into 7th and with a chance of picking up a Europa League place. Scott Parker has galvanized Fulham in recent weeks, with the Cottagers winning their last 3 games (over Cardiff, Everton and Bournemouth) and the future looks bright in West London. It is of course too little, too late but they will be hoping they can finish the season in style here. Wolves however will have other ideas and should pick up a comfortable home win at Molineux.

Our Super 8
Wolves: Jonny, Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho
Fulham: Sergio Rico, Ryan Babel, Ryan Sessegnon, Aleksandar Mitrović

Cardiff vs Crystal Palace
It’s very much last chance saloon for Cardiff as they host Crystal Palace needing a win to preserve their Premier League status. Cardiff currently sit 4 points behind 17th placed Brighton with 2 games to play following their disappointing defeat to Fulham last time out. Crystal Palace meanwhile have enjoyed a strong second half of the season and have secured their Premier League status under Roy Hodgson and currently sit pretty in 12th place with 43 points to their name. Cardiff will be desperate for points but Palace love playing on the break and could certainly hurt Neil Warnock’s men.

Our Super 8
Cardiff: Neil Etheridge, Sean Morrison, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Víctor Camarasa
Crystal Palace: Vicente Guaita, Luka Milivojevic, Wilfried Zaha, Patrick van Aanholt

Newcastle vs Liverpool
Rafa Benitez will host his former employers as Liverpool arrive on the Toon needing 3 points to keep their Premier League title bid alive. Newcastle meanwhile have shown real resolve in recent weeks – particularly at home and have defied the odds to secure their Premier League status for another season. Liverpool meanwhile have reached the Champions League semi-finals yet again this year and are only one point behind Manchester City in the title race and have a big week on their hands here. Newcastle are safe so could play with some more freedom but Liverpool are consistent this season and should pick up another crucial three points on the road.

Our Super 8
Newcastle: Matt Ritchie, Fabian Schär, Ayoze Perez, Salomon Rondon
Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane

Chelsea vs Watford
Chelsea’s top 4 pursuit is still in their own hands following their draw at Manchester United and they will be hoping to follow that up here against London rivals Watford. Maurizio Sarri’s men currently sit 4th in the Premier League table and also have an Europa League semi-final on the horizon this week to contend with too. Watford have wobbled a little in the league since securing their FA Cup final showdown with Manchester City and they have dropped to 10th but are always a difficult team to play against. Chelsea shouldn’t have too many problems picking up all three points in front of their home fans here.

Our Super 8
Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Eden Hazard, Pedro
Watford: Adam Masina, Gerard Deulofeu, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andre Gray

Huddersfield vs Man Utd
Already relegated Huddersfield host Manchester United who need the points in their top 4 pursuit. The Terriers were on the receiving end of a 5-0 thumping from Liverpool last time out and will be eager to give their home fans something to cheer in their last Premier League home game. The race for the top 4 intensifies for Manchester United who have lost momentum in recent weeks under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and are a side in need of some inspiration. United have been poor in recent weeks but should pick up a big win here in the context of their Champions League pursuit.

Our Super 8
Huddersfield: Aaron Mooy, Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler, Karlan Grant
Man Utd: Scott McTominay, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba,  Romelu Lukaku

Arsenal vs Brighton
Another side in the top 4 mix, Arsenal host Brighton in what could be a nail-biter in North London. Arsenal have lost their last three Premier League games (to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester City) and have conceded 9 goals in the process. They sit two points behind Chelsea in the race for a top 4 finish but need to get back to winning ways quickly with a Europa League semi-final on the horizon too. Relegation threatened Brighton picked up a big point at home to Newcastle last time out and currently sit 4 points clear of the drop zone with 2 games to play. Brighton know that a result here will propel them to safety but Arsenal should have too much about them here in front of their home fans.

Our Super 8
Arsenal:  Bernd Leno,  Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 
Brighton: Pascal Gross, Shane Duffy, Glenn Murray, Anthony Knockaert

Man City vs Leicester
Another huge game in the title race concludes MW37 on Monday night as Manchester City host Leicester City. The blues are 3 wins away from an unprecedented domestic treble and look to have the bit between their teeth currently. Leicester meanwhile have improved significantly under Brendan Rodgers in the Premier League and currently sit 9th following their impressive 3-0 win over Arsenal. Leicester have been a bogey side at times for Pep Guardiola and he will not be relishing the fixture but City should have too much about them here.

Our Super 8
Man City: Aymeric Laporte, Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero
Leicester: Youri Tielemans, Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy, James Maddison

Here’s how Man Utd’s MW36 1-1 draw with Chelsea affects the Premier League top four race
The two sides played out a draw at Old Trafford as the Champions League race intensified

There are now just five points between third and sixth place after Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday and Arsenal’s 3-0 loss to Leicester earlier in the day. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took the lead in Manchester when Juan Mata fired in against his former club but Chelsea equalised just before half-time when the off-colour David de Gea spilled a long-range effort from Antonio Rudiger straight into the path of Marcos Alonso, who clipped home the equaliser. The point means that Chelsea retain the advantage in terms of finishing in the fourth and final Champions League place, below Tottenham in third.

Here’s how the race is shaping up with two games to go.
Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs suffered a surprise loss to West Ham on Saturday
Current position: 3rd
Points: 70
Remaining fixtures: Bournemouth (A), Everton (H)
Recent form: three wins, three defeats – 9 points

Chelsea
Current position: 4th
Points: 68
Remaining fixtures: Watford (H), Leicester City (A)
Recent form: three wins, two draws, one defeat – 11 points

Arsenal
Current position: 5th
Points: 66
Remaining fixtures: Brighton (H), Burnley (A)
Recent form: two wins, four defeats – 6 points

Manchester United
Current position: 6th
Points: 65
Remaining fixtures: Huddersfield (A), Cardiff (H)
Recent form: two wins, one draw, three defeats – 7 points

The curtains come down as we enter the penultimate week of the 2018-19 Premier League season – keep an eye on Monday’s visit of Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes to the Etihad Stadium. This will be a different affair as Leicester are not a team that will sit back and defend. They have lost just one of their last seven in the league, most recently thrashing Arsenal 3-0, and Jamie Vardy is in fine goalscoring form. The title is still not set in stone!

Who makes your Super 8?

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