Time is running out for the bottom three as they aim to secure their place in the Premier League. West Brom may need a miracle, but for Southampton and Stoke there was still hope heading into match-week 36.
The Saints hosted Bournemouth on Saturday, a game that was seen as very winnable prior to kick off and one they could not afford to lose. When Dusan Tadic gave the hosts the lead the roof was almost lifted off St.Mary’s as they aimed towards their first win in five under Mark Hughes.
The mood was dampened however on the stroke of half time when Joshua King scored an equaliser seconds before the break. Tadic would turn hero as he regained the advantage neat finish nine minutes after half time. The Cherries put some late pressure on Alex McCarthy but they could not find an equaliser as the Saints held on to a precious three points.
The win leaves them one point from safety and all of a sudden, survival looks like a distinct possibility. Everton away is next, but following that is a huge game against fellow strugglers Swansea, a match that could seal who stays and who goes.
As Southampton were edging their way towards survival, others were creeping closer and closer to the relegation zone over the weekend.
Huddersfield’s run in sees them face Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, so when they hosted Everton on Saturday it is fair to say they needed a win. What they got however was a crushing 2-0 defeat, making for a nervy end to the season for the Terriers. Cenk Tosun gave the Toffees the lead before Idrissa Gueye sealed a comfortable win. Huddersfield are three points clear of the drop zone, but they have by far the hardest run in of the relegation threatened clubs.
West Ham may have thought they would be safe a few weeks ago, but after a 4-1 defeat at home to Manchester City, they are right in the mix again. Leroy Sane gave the hosts the lead after 13 minutes before an ex-City player Pablo Zabaleta scored an own goal to make it two. Aaron Creswell gave the Hammers some hope before half time, but a pair of Brazilians ended all that as City romped to a 4-1 thanks to second half goals from Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho. West Ham sit on 35 points along with Huddersfield and face Leicester City away next.
As close as West Ham and Huddersfield are, they will not be as nervy as Swansea City. The Welsh club lost at home to Chelsea thanks to an early Cesc Fabregas goal, leaving them on 33 points, one clear of Southampton. The interesting thing is that the Swans have to face Southampton before the season closes after travelling to Bournemouth. Swansea are in a very dangerous position, especially with their poor goal difference in comparison to their rivals.
During his two decades at Arsenal, it could be argued that Manchester United were Arsene Wenger’s biggest rivals. Who can forget the spat in the tunnel, Keane vs Vieira, 8-2, Wenger getting sent to the stands, the list goes on. Arsenal vs Manchester United is one of the biggest rivalries in English football, and the end of this era of the rivalry came to an end on Sunday.
Wenger’s last game against Manchester United as manager of Arsenal had a testimonial feel about it when he received a pre-match presentation celebrating his tenure with the Gunners. The Frenchman was reunited with old foe Sir Alex Ferguson prior to kick off as they embraced at Old Trafford. They were joined briefly by another rival in Jose Mourinho, the current boss of the Red Devils. It was a classy move by Manchester United to celebrate the career of a rival manager.
With little to play for, the match did not resemble some of the classics we have seen over the years. Arsenal named a weakened side with their trip to Atletico Madrid in mind, meaning the game never really got going.
Paul Pogba tapped home the opener after Alexis Sanchez hit the post with a header after 16 minutes. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored against his former club to level the match after the break, but a late Marouane Fellaini goal sealed the win for Manchester United.
It is a familiar sight for Wenger to see his side lose out to United at Old Trafford, but their rivalry has been a joy to behold and this was truly an end of an era.
At this stage of the season, every point is vital when you are in the relegation battle. It only takes one or two defeats for a team to be sucked into the scrap at the foot of the table and when you are there, the pressure ramps up tenfold.
So you can imagine the relief of Crystal Palace fans when they separated themselves from that group on Saturday. The Eagles put in a fantastic display as they thrashed Leicester City 5-0 at Selhurst Park to move to 38 points and 11th place in the table.
It was a good first half for the hosts who netted two goals through Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur after some good passing moves. The Foxes came out aggressive in the second half, but the game would go out of their reach when Marc Albrighton saw red. Palace would then run riot as Ruben Loftus-Cheek then Patrick van Aanholt would add a third and fourth. Substitute Christian Benteke would put the icing on the cake with a fifth to cap a five star performance by Roy Hodgson’s men.
It was an incredible turnaround for Crystal Palace who went so long without winning a game to all but sealing their survival this weekend. The Eagles are now looking at a possible mid-table finish, which is a excellent achievement if they can get there.
Burnley confirmed their place in Europe for next season after a 0-0 draw at Brighton. Leicester’s defeat at Palace means the Foxes are six points behind the Clarets with two games remaining.
Chelsea continued their hunt for a top four spot with a 1-0 win against Swansea. Liverpool could only manage a goalless draw at home to Stoke earlier that day, but Tottenham responded well with a win at home to Watford on Monday.
West Brom continued their late surge by beating Newcastle 1-0, but it appears to be too little too late for the Baggies would are clinging on by the skin of their teeth.
Predictions Round Up
It was a close week with only one point separating them, but Niall took match-week 36 7-6 to close the gap to three points with only two match-weeks remaining.
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