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[EPL] MatchWeek 38 – This Is It! Red Or Blue?

For the first time since May 2014, the Premier League title will be decided on the final day of the season. Much like five years ago, City holds the advantage over Liverpool and know that if they manage to beat Brighton, they will be the first team to defend their title in a decade.

Red ribbons or blue? Liverpool or Manchester City? The home of the 2018/19 Premier League title is still unknown headed into the season’s final round of matches. We’ve arrived at the final week of the season and it is Manchester City’s title to lose. Both City and Liverpool held their nerve to snatch wins in MW37, the 32nd lead change this season, with 29 of those involving Liverpool or City and the Citizens can confirm their fourth title in the Premier League era by beating Mat Ryan’s Brighton on the road. The Reds will host Wolves at Anfield. Champions City are the leaders by a point following Monday’s 1-0 win at home to Leicester City. They will retain the title with victory away to Brighton & Hove Albion, but dropped points would let Liverpool take the crown for the first time since 1990, provided the Reds beat Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield.

The top four race is also set, barring a Spurs collapse of epic proportions and Arsenal defying their recent history and playing well away from home.

As per tradition, all 20 clubs will be in action with all ten matches played at exactly the same time – 07.30pm. Most of the other issues are settled, with Chelsea assured of a place in the top four and next season’s UEFA Champions League. Tottenham Hotspur should join them since north London rivals Arsenal need an eight-goal swing to overtake them. The Gunners travel to Burnley amid a miserable end to the season that has seen them take just four points from the last 18.

Manchester United could move above Arsenal into fifth if the latter fail to win at Turf Moor and the Red Devils close out a tumultuous campaign with a win over relegated Cardiff City at Old Trafford.

Elsewhere the relegation battle is already decided, so all that remains for Fulham, Huddersfield and Cardiff is to try and end their respective tenures on a high note.

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On another note, away from the EPL, English clubs created European football history midweek by taking all four final spots in the continent’s two major competitions. Arsenal won in Valencia and Chelsea beat Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday to reach the Europa League final. That followed dramatic wins for Liverpool over Barcelona and Tottenham against Ajax in the Champions League.

It is the first time all four finalists in Europe’s top two competitions have come from one nation.

EPL 2018-19 STATS THAT MATTER

WHAT WE LEARNED IN MATCHWEEK 37
Wolves set a Premier League high not seen in 18 years plus the other key facts from the weekend’s matches

Everton 2-0 Burnley
Seamus Coleman is the 20th player to score 20 Premier League goals for Everton, and the third defender to do so for the club after David Unsworth (33) and Leighton Baines (29)
AFC Bournemouth 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
At the age of 19 years and 351 days AFC Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers became the first teenage goalkeeper to start a PL match since Joe Hart for Manchester City in October 2006
West Ham 3-0 Southampton
Since the start of last season Marko Arnautovic has been directly involved in 30 PL goals, (scoring 20 and assisting 10). It is 14 more than any other West Ham player
Wolves 1-0 Fulham
Wolves have won 57 points this season, the most by a promoted side since Ipswich Town in 2000/01, when they racked up 66 points
Cardiff City 2-3 Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace striker Michy Batshuayi has ended on the winning side in all eight Premier League matches in which he has found the net; only Daniel Agger, with nine, and Chris Smalling, with 11, have scored in more matches with a 100 per cent record
Newcastle United 2-3 Liverpool
Salomon Rondon’s goal took him to 10 in the Premier League this season, the first time Newcastle United have had two players reaching double figures in the competition since 2011/12
Huddersfield Town 1-1 Manchester United
Huddersfield avoided defeat in a Premier League match in which they fell behind for the first time since drawing 1-1 at Burnley in October 2018, ending a run of 23 straight league losses when trailing at any stage
Chelsea 3-0 Watford
With 16 goals and 15 assists, Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 31 Premier League goals for Chelsea this season; only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with 32 in 2000/01, Frank Lampard with 36 in 2009/10 and Didier Drogba with 39 in 2009/10, have had a hand in more in a single campaign for the club
Arsenal 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the sixth different player to score 20+ goals in a Premier League season for the club and the first since Alexis Sanchez in 2016/17
Manchester City 1-0 Leicester City
Vincent Kompany scored his 20th goal in all competitions for Man City, with his long-range strike against Leicester his first from outside the penalty area

MATCHWEEK 38: KEY FACTS
Hughton eyes final-day win over City again – Brighton manager was in charge of the opposition when Citizens last lost their final fixture of the season

Brighton vs Man City
Manchester City are unbeaten on the final day of the PL season since 2012/13, when Hughton’s Norwich City side won 3-2 at the Etihad
Burnley vs Arsenal
Peter Crouch could become only the fourth player to score on the final day of seven PL campaigns, after Les Ferdinand, Teddy Sheringham and Andrew Cole, the latter doing so eight times
Crystal Palace vs AFC Bournemouth
Crystal Palace have never lost when playing the final match of a top-flight season at home, winning five and drawing the other two of their seven such fixtures
Fulham vs Newcastle
Fulham have won eight of their last nine home league meetings with Newcastle, including the last six in a row
Leicester vs Chelsea
Jamie Vardy has scored Leicester’s last three goals against Chelsea in all competitions, including the winner in December’s reverse fixture
Liverpool vs Wolves
Liverpool have won six of their nine PL meetings with Wolves, including the last four, and kept six clean sheets in total during that spell
Man Utd vs Cardiff
Manchester United have won 18 of their 26 final-day PL matches, more than any other side, and are unbeaten in all such fixtures since 2006/07
Southampton vs Huddersfield
Shane Long can become the first Southampton player to score in a fourth successive PL home match since James Beattie in April 2003
Spurs vs Everton
Tottenham Hotspur have won their final PL match in seven of the last eight campaigns, while their last three such fixtures have produced 23 goals
Watford vs West Ham
A goal for Marko Arnautovic would make him the first West Ham player to reach double figures in consecutive PL campaigns since Carlton Cole in 2009/10   Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

GAME REVIEW – Our Super 8
Brighton vs Man City 
This is what it all comes down to. If one club knew how to ruin their own chances previously it was Manchester City. Not now, though. They are clearly one of the world’s best teams and a win over Brighton will secure their first-ever successful defence of the Premier League title. Little hope for Mat Ryan and co., but they played their final to secure another Premier League season last week and that was more than enough.

Our Super 8
Brighton: Pascal Gross, Shane Duffy, Glenn Murray, Anthony Knockaert
Man City: Vincent Kompany, Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero

Burnley vs Arsenal  
These days, fourth almost seems like a pipe dream for the Gunners and what a typical sight it would be to see them drop all the points to Burnley on the final day of the season.

Passages through the middle stages of the season suggested that they were on their way towards a return to the Champions League, but they’ve fallen apart again and boy, it must be tough to be an Arsenal fan.

Burnley held City to just one goal two games ago and lost to Everton at their most recent appearance and surely, they’ve just shut up shop for the season.

Our Super 8
Burnley: Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, James Tarkowski
Arsenal: Bernd Leno, Xherdan Shaqiri, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth  
Surely everyone will be hitting the equivalent of the red button and tuning into this blockbuster on the final day of the season.

Both clubs are safe, but neither club has anything to gain by winning this one. Palace have recorded some typically smart results this season though.

Our Super 8
Crystal Palace: Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew, Michy Batshuayi 
Bournemouth: Nathan Aké, Junior Stanislas, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser

Fulham vs Newcastle
The third and final club set to be relegated from the Premier League is Fulham and who knows what they’ll face when Newcastle comes to town.

Relegation was already all but assured, but the Cottagers strung together three smart wins leading into last week’s loss to Wolves and they will be eager to bow out of the top draw with an eighth win for the season under the belt.

To their credit, the Magpies were good against Liverpool last week, but that followed a 1-1 draw with Brighton which they were probably lucky to take something from. Newcastle have again been saved by other clubs being even more inconsistent than they are and there’s nothing on the line for them here.

Our Super 8
Fulham: Sergio Rico, Ryan Babel, Ryan Sessegnon, Aleksandar Mitrović
Newcastle: Matt Ritchie, Fabian Schär, Ayoze Perez, Salomon Rondon

Leicester vs Chelsea 
An interesting fixture to end the season for both clubs and Leicester can potentially cost Chelsea third spot (not that it really matters at all) by winning this.

The Foxes produced a commendable effort to go within a whisker of ruining City’s title defence and you’d have to think that at home, against a worse team that has less on the line, they’ll be even better here. Who bloody knows though, there’s also nothing on the line for them.

All in all, another quiet and pretty forgettable season for Chelsea and focus is fixed on next season’s prospects. Take a look at their 2019/20 jersey when you get a spare minute. It looks like being another long and fruitless one, at least for us who have to watch.

Our Super 8
Leicester: Youri Tielemans, Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy, James Maddison
Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Eden Hazard, Pedro

Liverpool vs Wolves
Well, well, well. Here we get to the match that actually means something. Nothing less than a win and a Manchester City loss is required for Liverpool to secure their first title in the Premier League era, but they will have their hands full with a Wolves side that has been credible all season. They’ve been buoyed by that ludicrous performance and win over Barcelona in the Champions League midweek and a repeat of that performance would see them putting 10 past Wolves.

Wolves are confirmed to finish seventh and that is their best result in England’s top league since 1979/80. Another win over Fulham last week was their third in succession and they will be quietly confident of confirming that Liverpool will not win the league.

Nerves will be high but surely, Liverpool just wins. Close, but not close enough.

Our Super 8
Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane
Wolves: Leander Dendoncker, Matt Doherty, Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota

Man Utd vs Cardiff
Fifth place remains up for grabs for Manchester United and the relegated Bluebirds are the only thing standing in their way (assuming Arsenal bottles it again). It’s been a bizarre season for the Red Devils, but they’ve been largely good since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over and they’re offered a good opportunity to end the season on a high at the expense of a minnow.

It’s been an extremely tough season for Cardiff both on and off the pitch, but they have proven to be fighters several times and there is little doubt that they’ll be a force in the Championship next season.

Our Super 8
Man Utd: Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata
Cardiff: Neil Etheridge, Sean Morrison, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Víctor Camarasa

Southampton vs Huddersfield 
This is the final time that we’ll see Aaron Mooy’s Huddersfield Town in the Premier League, at least for a while and they are understandably huge outsiders to beat Southampton.

Following a pleasing 2017/18 campaign, the Terriers offered virtually nothing this season and won just three matches. A rebuild is just what the doctor ordered and as long as they don’t just continually drop through the leagues as several other clubs have, they’ll be alright.

Southampton have found a decent run of form throughout the last few months and should be winning this with relative ease.

Our Super 8
Southampton: Angus Gunn, Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings, James Ward-Prowse
Huddersfield: Aaron Mooy, Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler, Karlan Grant

Spurs vs Everton
Spurs and Everton each look to close out their season a on a positive note in London.

Another quality Premier League campaign from the North London club and perhaps unlucky not to have finished higher. For at least a little while they looked capable of winning the league, but inconsistency through the middle to late stages of the competition and losses to minnows have prevented a title again.
The Toffees have restored a bit of fight into their badge and will likely finish the season eighth. They’ve found a great patch of form in the latter part of the season and a win over Spurs would cap a positive campaign.

Tottenham can finish as high as third, but it would take Leicester beating Chelsea and no one really think that is going to happen. A draw looks more likely.

Our Super 8
Spurs: Kieran Trippier, Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen
Everton: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurðsson

Watford vs West Ham 
This should be one of the tighter fixtures of the final week – both clubs have claims, but both clubs are also more than capable of leaving their boots at home.

Watford have fallen a little off the wagon of late, but what a pleasing season this must have been for a club of their current standing and signs are good for another competitive 2019/20. They will line up opposite a West Ham side that has underachieved, given some of the names on their roster, but who have recorded two smart wins over Spurs and Southampton at their two most-recent appearances.

Our Super 8
Watford: Adam Masina, Gerard Deulofeu, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andre Gray
West Ham: Declan Rice, Ryan Fredericks, Marko Arnautović, Michail Antonio

Here’s how the four UCL and UEL semifinal wins affect England’s Champions League places next season – There is a possibility of five English teams in the UCL next season, but only if Arsenal win the Europa League
Two English clubs will contest the Champions League final after Liverpool and Tottenham’s stunning semi-final comebacks. The teams will do battle at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on June 1st meaning there will be an English winner of the elite European competition.

But with both teams destined for the Premier League top four, it will have no impact on the spots available to English clubs in the Champions League next season. There is still an outside chance Spurs could finish outside of the top four, but an eight-goal swing is needed on the final day for Arsenal to snatch fourth place. In the unlikely event that happened, Spurs would need to beat Liverpool to ensure they enter next season’s Champions League group stage as the fifth English team as there is no spot for beaten finalists.

If, as expected, Spurs finish in the top four along with Liverpool, the ‘extra’ group stage spot would go to the champions of UEFA’s 11th-ranked league, the Austrian top flight, who would go straight into the group stages rather than the qualifying rounds.

The Gunners and Chelsea are still in the competition, but Chelsea are also guaranteed a top four finish to secure their Champions League place
There is no Champions League spot for the losing Europa League finalists, so the only way for the Premier League to have five teams in the premier competition is for Arsenal to lift the trophy in Baku. If both European competitions were won by English teams outside the top four – which is no longer possible – then the fourth-placed Premier League team would miss out on the Champions League.

There is also one more question mark surrounding English teams qualifying for Europe next season
If Watford beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final, they will qualify for the Europa League whilst if City win then Wolves will enter the qualifiers after finishing seventh in the table.

Last day of the 2018-19 Premier League season and methinks you need to keep a keen eye on Man City’s visit to Brighton. Chris Hughton, the manager of Sunday’s hosts Brighton & Hove Albion, has spoiled their party before on the final day. Indeed, the last time Man City were defeated in their last fixture of the Premier League campaign, Hughton was in charge of the opposition – and City finished second in the table. The title is still not decided folks! There is still one more twist in the tale…

Who makes your Super 8?

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