Manchester City went into match-week 33 knowing that a win over their neighbours and closest rivals Manchester United would see them officially win the Premier League title. It would have been the perfect way to cap an amazing season for Pep Guardiola’s side, who look set to break many records before the season ends.
It was an even first 25 minutes as United pressed high and did not give the hosts a chance to settle, but when Vincent Kompany headed in from a corner, momentum swung City’s way. The Citizens dominated the rest of the first half and added a second through Ilkay Gundogan just minutes after the first. It could have easily been four and five, but missed chances by Raheem Sterling kept the game 2-0 going into the break.
United needed a change and in the second half they came out with more attacking intent, pressing like they did at the start of the match. The Red Devils would get their reward when Paul Pogba finished a neat passing move to half the deficit. The Frenchman would pop up against just two minutes later with a header to incredibly level the match. City were rattled by United’s approach and ffor the second time in less than a week they conceded three goals. Chris Smalling’s volley completed a dramatic turn around as the Etihad was left stunned. The match desecended into a classic derby with crunching tackles, altercations aplenty, and some controversial decisions, none of which were bigger than dimissing City’s penalty claim. Ashley Young appeared to have fouled Sergio Aguero with a dangerous challenge but the referee waved the appeals off. David Dea Gea would produce an excellent save to deny the Argentinian late on before Sterling would squander another chance from close range. United would see the game out and delay their rivals’ title celebrations as a result. The season may belong to Manchester City, but the day belonged to Manchester United.
It is rare that one match takes up two sections of our match-week reviews, but I believe that this Manchester derby had so many talking points it is necessary on this occasion.
There are not many weaknesses in this Manchester City side, but if this past week has told us anything it is that they are vulnerable when put under pressure. Liverpool got in their faces and pressed them high in mid-week resulting in a 3-0 win for the Reds. Manchester United did the same in the second half this weekend and overturned their two goal deficit.
Saying that all teams pressuring City would see them lose more often than not is ridiculous, because it takes a specific style, training and the players to execute this strategy effectively. But I can not help but feel that if more teams went at City instead of sitting back and showing them too much respect, that we could have actually had a title race instead of the overwhelming dominance we have seen.
It will be interesting to see if Spurs try to go at City when they meet next week and how much success they have in doing so.
A 2-1 win at Leicester has all but sealed Newcastle’s status as a Premier League team next season and bumped the Magpies into the top half.
The visitors started the better of the two at the King Power and were rewarded with the lead through Jonjo Shelvey’s deflected effort. Leicester were denied a penalty shout towards the end of the half, and it came back to bite them when Ayoze Perez made it 2-0 with 15 minutes to go.
The Foxes responded strongly to going two behind and made it a nervy finish when they grabbed one back through Jamie Vardy. However, Newcastle would hold on to the lead and secure the victory.
Despite not having the best squad in the league, Rafa Benitez has done a great job at getting the best out of his players, especially since the turn of the year. The Spaniard has led his side to certain survival, and now they are looking at a potential top ten finish.
Newcastle United are a big club and with the right resources they could become a threat for the European places. They have got a top class coach at the helm who knows how to win trophies, the question is can they keep him?
Burnley Take A Big Step Towards European Qualification
Unless Southampton win the FA Cup, the team that finishes seventh in the Premier League will qualify for the Europa League. That position is occupied by Burnley at the moment, a shock to most who predicted them to be relegation contenders at the start of the season.
The Clarets came from a goal behind to defeat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Saturday which extended the gap between themselves and Leicester City to six points. The Foxes’ defeat to Newcastle was a huge boost to Burnley’s chances, and given how unlikely it is that Southampton win the FA Cup, the Clarets can start dreaming of some European away days.
Whilst the Europa League is not as glamorous as the Champions League, it is still European competition. For a club like Burnley, who have limited resources compared to may in the league, qualification is a big deal. The Europa League hosts many big clubs around Europe and if they are able to get past the group stages, then they could face off with some of Europe’s elite that have dropped out of the Champions League.
It was another big week in the relegation battle, and for the bottom three it was another disappointing match-week. Stoke fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to Spurs, meanwhile West Brom let a lead slip to Swansea in a 1-1 draw. Southampton put up a good fight at Arsenal, but ultimately they would remain in the bottom three after suffering a 3-2 defeat.
Huddersfield earned a point at Brighton but they remain dangerously close to the drop zone. Crystal Palace and Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at the Vitality stadium which still leaves the Eagles in a precarious position.
The Merseyside derby was a rather tame 0-0 affair with not even a single yellow card shown. Everton remain ninth, but Liverpool must watch over their shoulders for Tottenham. They will not be looking over for Chelsea however a the Blues were booed off by their home fans after a 1-1 draw against West Ham.
Predictions Round Up
The scores were not as big as last week, but the extra correct score was the difference between our two writers in match-week 33. Niall correctly predicted Burnley to beat Watford 2-1 to take the week 9-6. The gap is now only six points with five games left. Can Niall complete the turnaround or will Neil secure the Predictions Cup?
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