Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchday 33

 

  1. MANCHESTER CITY (84 pts, GD + 66)
    LAST GAMES: 3-2 L vs. United
    NEXT GAME: at Tottenham

It has been an abysmal week for City and City fans. Three straight losses in a span of six days, in which each loss seems worse than the last. However, if you’re a City fan, the derby loss will hurt for a very long time. With a once in a lifetime chance to clinch the title against United, City was simply outplayed by a determined and dominant United side. City will still win the title, however,  blowing a two-goal lead like that against your biggest rivals to delay the title-clincher will sting for a few years. City need now need two more wins or a win and United loss next weekend to clinch the title.

From day one at the Etihad, Pep said it was going to be a process to completely transform Manchester City. Even at times this season when it seemed like no one could stop City, Pep still insisted there was still plenty of work to be done. Last year, the club didn’t win any trophies and the team really struggled to play within Pep’s system. However, this season, they will win two trophies and we’ve seen City play as the best team in Europe on multiple occasions.

One week—regardless of how bad it may be—cannot undermine what Pep and the team have done this season. This season isn’t a bust just because City won’t win the Champions League. Liverpool has been praised around the world (rightfully and deservedly) for their attacking prowess, so why is City and Pep to blame for not being able to control it? With their loss to United, City may not officially be Champions yet, but does that make their season and their title any less special? If Pep can transform this club this much in one season, who knows what the team will look like with another year of Pep’s tinkering.

  1. MANCHESTER UNITED (71 pts, GD +38)
    LAST GAME: 3-2 W at City
    NEXT GAMES: vs. WBA, at Bournemouth (4/18)

What. A. Comeback. What a derby. In what will easily be the best game of the season, the true Manchester United came out. The cliché in almost any sport is that it’s always a tale of two halves, but I don’t I’ve ever seen a game where it was literally a tale of two halves. United was completely and almost embarrassingly outplayed in the first half, but the Red Devils were by far the better team in the second half. Pogba reminded United fans, and fans across the world, why he is one of the best players in the world. When allowed to roam freely in the attacking third, that is was Pogba can do.

Jose Mourinho and his men will finish in second, but this type of display will give them hope for next season and it will give them confidence that they should be competing for titles and not settling for second.

  1. LIVERPOOL (67 PTS, GD +40)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D at Everton
    NEXT GAME: vs. Bournemouth

Liverpool came into this game with one thing on their mind: don’t lose and leave without any injuries. Liverpool was clearly focused on their Champions League tie with City and played their ‘B’ team against the Toffees. However, the draw coupled with Tottenham’s win over Stoke, leave Liverpool and Tottenham level on points with Tottenham having a game in hand. City and United will finish first and second respectively, but the battle for third between Liverpool and Tottenham will be a big headline going into the last few weeks of the season.

Let me say this about Liverpool: Liverpool is every non-Liverpool fan’s second favorite team—unless you’re a United fan. Liverpool, in my opinion, are the team you hate to love and love to hate. Their free-flowing, high-scoring and buccaneering style of play is so fun to watch. Pair that with a passionate and deeply connected fan base and it’s clear to see (even to non-soccer fans) what makes watching sports—and even life—beautiful. Liverpool’s play since January has been phenomenal and it finally looks like Klopp has the team he needs to compete in the PL and Europe. Since the start of the new year, we’ve seen this team be arguably in the top 10 best teams in Europe. If Salah stays, and I think it will take a world record transfer fee to make him leave, Liverpool is going to be scary good and scary dangerous next season. Virgil van Dijk has completely stabilized that defense and he even be the next Stevie G. It will not be very long until he is given the captain’s armband.

  1. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (67 PTS, GD +37)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W at Chelsea
    NEXT GAMES: vs. City, at Brighton (4/17)

It was their best performance, but Spurs picked up all three points that pulled them level with Liverpool on points. Christian Eriksen continued his hot streak with two second-half goals.

Spurs last real test this season is this weekend when City come to Wembley. Their important game in hand against Newcastle that could possibly launch Spurs over Liverpool won’t be played until May 9th, four days before the final game of the season. The battle for third between Liverpool and Tottenham is going to be really fun to watch.

  1. CHELSEA (57 PTS, GD +23)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs. West Ham
    NEXT GAMES: at Southampton, at Burnley (4/19)

Barring any catastrophic collapse from Liverpool or Tottenham in the league, it’s safe to say Chelsea will not be in the Champions League next season. Despite being the better team for pretty much the entire game, Chelsea couldn’t find the second goal they desperately needed to dispatch their east London rival. Joe Hart made some fantastic saves and Chelsea couldn’t beat him.

There are two big questions going into next season for Chelsea: 1) it looks like Conte will not be the manager next season, so who replaces him and how quickly do they make the change and 2) will Eden Hazard be at the club next season? Real Madrid is looming and with no Champions League football next season to keep Hazard at the club, it may be hard to turn down the Galácticos.

  1. ARSENAL (54 PTS, GD +18)
    LAST GAME: 3-0 W vs. Stoke
    NEXT GAME: at Newcastle

It’s a little too late, but Arsenal has been playing very well as of late. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is off to a really great start to life in the PL with six goals and an assist in his first seven PL games.

The Gunners responded well Arsenal after Shane Long’s opener. This turned out to be a tougher game for Arsenal than what they would have originally thought, but they battled back and kept the motivation and confidence. That is something that has been lacking from this team for a majority of the season.

Arsene Wenger will need to take the Jose Mourinho approach to the Europa League. With Arsenal moving into the final four of the competition, it is their last hope of reaching the Champions League. If Arsenal wins the Europa League, they will automatically qualify for the Champions League next season, even though they will be finishing outside of the top four in the PL.

  1. BURNLEY (49 PTS, GD +3)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W at Watford
    NEXT GAMES: vs. Leicester, at Chelsea (4/19)

A very solid performance and come from behind victory for Burnley. The Clarets scored twice in three minutes to leave Vicarage Road with all three points. Burnley fans will be delighted by their team’s performance this season and they will want to end it on a strong note. After the display from their team this season, Clarets fans will hope to reignite a potential Europa League push next season. 

  1. LEICESTER CITY (43 PTS, GD +3)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L vs. Newcastle
    NEXT GAMES: at Burnley, vs. Southampton (4/19)

A late Jamie Vardy goal wasn’t enough for the Foxes to come from behind. In a game that meant more for the visitors than it did the hosts, Leicester wasn’t as sharp or tactical as they usually were. The Foxes are miles ahead of the relegation zone, but they (and any other mid-table team for that matter) don’t want to end the season sputtering to the finish. The Foxes will want to end the season on a strong note to end to carry some momentum going into next season.

  1. EVERTON (41 PTS, GD -15)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D vs. Liverpool
    NEXT GAME: at Swansea

For Liverpool, this game didn’t mean a whole lot, but for Everton, this should have been one of their biggest games of the season. Everton hasn’t beaten Liverpool since 2010 and this was a prime opportunity for the Toffees to steal a win from Liverpool. The Reds were recovering from and preparing for their Champions Leagues games against City, giving Everton the perfect opportunity to break their winless streak against their bitter rivals.

However, Everton didn’t really show up and their best chances game towards the end of the game. Everton only had 38 percent of the possession and only mustered one shot on target. Big Sam did his job and took Everton out of the relegation zone and led them to safety, but I’d be willing to bet that Big Sam will not be the Everton manager beginning next season.

  1. NEWCASTLE (38 PTS, GD -8)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W at Leicester
    NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal

The Magpies picked up a crucial win and it will be the win that keeps them in the PL next season. Despite holding only 33 percent of the possession, Newcastle made the most of their possession with two well-taken goals. Despite Vardy pulling one back with seven minutes left, Newcastle held on for the win.

Three straight league wins, two of which were against relegation rivals, clinched safety for the Toon Army. Rafa Benitez deserves to be nominated for manager of the year. The work he has done on the field while the future of the club is unknown and support from the owners is almost non-existent is nothing short of incredible. Not only has he kept a Championship-side in the PL, but he has them in the top-half of the table.

  1. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (38 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 2-2 D vs. Palace
    NEXT GAME: at Liverpool, vs. United (4/18)

Another game, another 2-2 draw for the Cherries. Bournemouth came from behind twice to deny Palace a crucial three points in their relegation battle. Bournemouth has been the kings of coming from behind this season. The Cherries have won 18 points from losing position this season, more than any other team in the PL this season. It is that resilience instilled in this team by Eddie Howe that has kept Bournemouth in the PL and it will keep them in the league for another season.

  1. WATFORD (37 PTS, GD -17)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L vs. Burnley
    NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield

Two goals in three minutes from Burnley canceled out Roberto Pereyra’s opener and gave Watford their third loss in their last four PL games. With both teams safe and with plenty of breathing room between them and the relegation zone, this was a pressure-less match for both teams. While Watford and their fans may not be happy with the result, they will be happy to know that their team will be in the PL next season and they will be hoping for a potential Europa League push.

  1. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (35 PTS, GD -14)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs. Huddersfield
    NEXT GAME: at Palace, vs. Tottenham (4/17)

In a game between two relegation rivals, a draw was a fair result. Brighton started better of the two teams and went ahead on an own goal. Huddersfield responded three minutes later with a goal of their own and then Brighton held on for a draw in the second half. It was a roller coaster of emotions and not a great game for Brighton and their fans, but they did get a vital point in the relegation race.

The Seagulls sit seven points clear of the relegation zone, but they are still in a relegation fight. If we learned anything from the Manchester Derby, it’s that anything can happen in this league and nothing is certain until it’s over.

  1. WEST HAM UNITED (34 PTS, GD -18)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Stoke

It took a lot longer than West Ham fans thought, but Joe Hart finally looked like the old Joe Hart again. Hart was fantastic on Sunday. The Manchester City-loanee made some big and crucial saves to deny Willian and Olivier Giroud and it kept West Ham in the game. Chicharito scored three minutes after coming on to the field to give West Ham a desperately needed point.

West Ham faces Stoke City next weekend and it may be the biggest game of their season. The Potters are really struggling and if the Hammers can pull out the win, 37 points may just be enough to keep them in the PL for another season.

  1. SWANSEA CITY (32 PTS, GD -19)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at WBA
    NEXT GAME: vs. Everton

This result will sting for Swansea. In a big relegation battle, Swansea was playing one of the teams certain to be relegated, and instead of alleviating some pressure off of their shoulders, the Swans only intensified the pressure. This game was a prime opportunity for Swansea to pick up a crucial three points but only left the Midlands with one. WBA was the better team for the first hour of the game and deserved the lead when they scored in the 54thminute. For Swansea, it was Chelsea-loanee Tammy Abraham who scored the goal that saved Swansea from potential catastrophe.

The Swans have games remaining against Everton, City, Chelsea, Bournemouth and Southampton and will need to win at least two of those games to avoid slipping back down into the bottom three.

  1. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (32 PTS, GD -28)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Brighton
    NEXT GAME: vs. Watford

With both teams battling relegation, Huddersfield and Brighton will be happy with a point. The Terriers went down early but responded well and scored three minutes after Jonas Lossl conceded an own goal. Huddersfield was the better team in the second half, and when Brighton went down a man, the Terriers pushed hard for a winner, however, Brighton held tough and a draw is a fair result.

The Terriers are four points ahead of the relegation zone and will be walking a tight line until the end of the season. The only problem for Huddersfield is that they face the toughest tests in their last five games than their relegation rivals. In their last five games, Huddersfield faces Watford, Everton, City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. That is an incredible gauntlet to go through to keep their PL status for next season. Realistically, the Terriers will need the teams around them to lose if they wish to stay in the league. The way Huddersfield has been playing over the last month of the season, I don’t see David Wagner and his men picking up points against City, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

  1. CRYSTAL PALACE (31 PTS, GD -19)
    LAST GAME: 2-2D at Bournemouth
    NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton

Another game where Palace couldn’t close it out and another game where Palace drop crucial points. Palace would be in the top half of the table if they could close out games and stop conceding late goals to lose/draw. What hurts even more for Palace fans is that this win would have been crucial in their relegation battle. With all of the relegation rivals around them losing or drawing, Palace had a legitimate chance to buy themselves a little breathing room. However, the Cherries scored in the 89thminute and Palace had to settle for a point on the south coast.

Palace has Brighton, Watford, Leicester, Stoke and WBA in their last five league games and those are all very winnable games for Palace. If they can get at least 9 points from their remaining five games, it may be enough to keep their PL status.

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (28 PTS, GD -19)
    LAST GAME: 3-2 L at Arsenal
    NEXT GAMES: vs. Chelsea, at Leicester (4/19)

A heartbreaking loss for the Saints. Southampton played tough and finally broke their goal-scoring drought, but Arsenal was too strong for the Saints to handle. Tempers flared at the end with a player from each team being sent off, but it was just Southampton’s frustration boiling over and Arsenal retaliating.

Southampton still has that game in hand and that will be crucial as the season comes down to the wire. That game won’t be played until May 8thagainst fellow relegation rival Swansea. That game will determine Southampton’s season, but if the Saints can pick up some points before then, it may alleviate some stress before the Swansea game and possibly save their season.

  1. STOKE CITY (27 PTS, GD -33)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L vs Tottenham
    NEXT GAME: at West Ham
     

Another week, another loss to a North London team. The Potters lost to Arsenal last weekend and lost at home to Tottenham. Like the Arsenal game, Stoke City played tough in the first half but was outplayed by their counterparts in the second half. Stoke had no answer for Christian Eriksen. Eriksen was pulling the strings for Tottenham, running free through the Stoke defense and thoroughly deserved both goals.

The Potters are now five points adrift and massive games against West Ham, Palace and Swansea left to play this season. If Stoke wants to remain in the PL next season, depending on other results from across the league, Stoke will need to win at least two of those games to even have a chance of staying in the league.

  1. WEST BROMWICH ALBION (21 PTS, GD -26)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs. Swansea
    NEXT GAME: 
    at United

WBA end their eight-match winless streak, but it is too late for the Baggies. Though they are not officially relegated from the league, they are 10 points from safety with five games remaining. WBA needs to pull off the most miraculous escape in PL history to stay in the league, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Despite falling further behind the other teams, WBA did make history on Saturday. Interim manager Darren Moore became the first ever Jamaican to manage in the PL.


@ClayBenjamin_ for @CincySoccerTalk

 

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