Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Liverpool Frustrated in Champions League Final

Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final as the Premier League side was unable to get on the scoresheet despite firing 26 shots at the Real Madrid net and putting nine of them on target. Thibaut Courtois was the Man of the Match for the Spanish champions as the former Chelsea keeper’s nine saves included two of the spectacular variety at the expense of Liverpool stars Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. The nine saves were a record for a Champions League final. The only goal of the game came in the first half when Trent Alexander-Arnold lost track of Vinicius Junior who easily tapped in the pinpointed pass of Federico Valverde for the Real Madrid goal.

Alexander-Arnold was a force going forward for the Reds, but the unmarked Vinicius Junior made the Liverpool defender pay the price for his wanderings. Karim Benzema was later ruled offside on a controversial negation of a goal which would have doubled Real Madrid’s lead. Frustrated Liverpool dominated the balance of play. Goalkeeper Alisson faced only two shots on target, one of which was the Vinicius winner. Liverpool failed to score in regular or extra time in any of its three cup finals this season, defeating Chelsea on penalty kicks in both the Carabao and FA Cup finals. The Reds’ quest for more titles failed on successive weekends as Manchester City secured the Premier League crown by a single point and Real Madrid continued its magical run to a record 14th Champions League title. Los Blancos defeated Premier League teams Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool, in addition to French league champion PSG during this year’s title run. Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti became the first manager to win the coveted title four times. Remarkably, Ancelotti was managing a poor Everton squad just one year ago. Saturday’s frustration for Liverpool fans began even before a ball was kicked as logistical issues outside the stadium led to a delayed match start, dangerous crowd conditions and teargassing of supporters by local Paris police. A formal investigation of the chaos has been launched. 

Nottingham Forest Joins Premier League Next Season

Nottingham Forest will play in the Premier League next season for the first time in 23 years after the club defeated Huddersfield 1-0 on Sunday in the Championship playoff. Nottingham Forest thus joins Fulham and Bournemouth in earning promotion to England’s highest division, replacing relegated Burnley, Watford and Norwich.

The high financial stakes of Sunday’s matchup, with lucrative promotion on the line, led to a tense, unartistic match decided by a Huddersfield own goal in the first half. The means, however, mattered little compared to the end achieved by a Nottingham Forest squad which was bottom of the division when Manager Steve Cooper assumed the reins in September. Cooper guided the club to a fourth-place finish in the table, an FA Cup quarterfinal appearance and now promotion to the Premier League. 


A bad weekend for Liverpool fans got worse with reports after the Champions League loss that Sadio Mane had informed teammates that he would be leaving the Merseyside club this summer. The reported destination of choice for Mane is Bayern Munich where Robert Lewandowski has been vocal in his own desire to leave for Barcelona. Mane has been integral to Liverpool’s success the past few years, but the club should be assured of Mohamed Salah’s presence for at least one more year and transfer additions Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota provide other attack options to cushion the blow of losing the prolific Senegalese forward. Mane’s departure and overall flagging goal production during the late stage of the season, however, may have Liverpool looking for a fresh face in the transfer window to spruce up their front line.

Ralf Rangnick will not be continuing in any capacity with Manchester United. The interim coach of this past season was to have assumed a consultancy role, but it has now been revealed that he will discontinue any ties with the club. Rangnick had indicated weeks ago that he would be heading the Austrian national team while incongruously juggling the Manchester United consulting gig. Red Devil Manager Eric ten Hag, however, seems not to have been a fan of Rangnick crowding his space and Manchester United fans will be pleased to see an end to the failed Rangnick experiment. 


Friday, May 27, 2022

Champions League Final Preview

 Liverpool faces Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday for the chance to capture the Reds’ second Champions League trophy in the last four years.

Following Chelsea’s victory last year, a Liverpool win this weekend would mark the third time in four years that a Premier League team would have won Europe’s most coveted trophy. Liverpool’s most recent title, a 2019 victory over fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, came one year after a loss in the 2018 title game to Real Madrid. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah went out early in that 2018 game, the victim of a questionable tackle by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. Salah has recently commented on his desire to square that defeat, comments which have not gone unnoticed by Real Madrid in preparing for Saturday’s match. The aging Spanish squad was expected to be in rebuilding mode this season but captured the Spanish La Liga domestic title and Super Cup.

Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City have already fallen in dramatic fashion to Real Madrid in this year’s Champions League competition. Karim Benzema has 44 goals in 45 matches for Los Blancos this season and is accompanied up front by the speedy and improving Vinicius Jr. The young forward struck for 17 goals and 13 assists in La Liga this season. Ancient midfielders Luca Modric and Toni Kroos are capable at any point of threading a clinical pass to either of the two front-line scorers. Defensively, Real Madrid can be exploited by the high energy Liverpool attack featuring Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota.

The key to the match, however,  may well be the health of Liverpool center back Virgil Van Dijk and midfielder Fabinho. Both have had recent injuries but are expected to play on Saturday. Van Dijk sat out the last two league games and his presence in the middle of the Liverpool defense guarding against Benzema and Vinicius could swing the match.

Liverpool’s fine season, despite the disappointment of a narrow second place finish in the league, would be well rewarded if they can capture Europe’s greatest crown as their third trophy this season.

Jose Mourinho Wins Another Trophy 

Former Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur Manager Jose Mourinho captured his fifth European trophy when Roma defeated Feyenoord 1-0 in the inaugural Europa Conference League final.Despite experiencing his most acclaimed Premier League success during two different stints with Chelsea, Mourinho’s single European Cup win managing an English side was Manchester United’s Europa League title in 2017. Mourinho has now won 26 trophies across all competitions during his career. That number potentially could have been 27 if Mourinho had not been unceremoniously sacked by Tottenham Hotspur shortly before the 2021 Carabao Cup final. Mourinho’s Roma squad this year included former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham. Abraham scored 27 goals across all competitions and went viral during the Conference League final when he was observed giving a knowing wink to his bench as he feigned injury to waste the clock as Roma edged toward victory. Abraham’s newfound mastery of “the dark arts” was, of course, attributed to the tutelage of his serial winning manager.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

MANCHESTER CITY ARE CHAMPIONS ! Citizens Overcome Early Deficit As Liverpool Also Wins; Spurs Cinch Champions League; Leeds Survives; Burnley Relegated; West Ham Loss Hands Europa Spot To Manchester United

Manchester City Captures Title

Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to surge past Aston Villa and capture its fourth Premier League title in the last five years. Aston Villa set the stage for final day drama in the title race when former Liverpool player Philippe Coutinho scored in the 69th minute to put the  league leaders at a two-goal disadvantage for a second consecutive match. Manager Pep Guardiola again made the necessary adjustments for his team to respond. Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, inserted as a substitute to play a forward role for only his fourth time under Guardiola, sparked the champions’ comeback. Gundogan scored twice, either side of a goal by Rodri, as City scored all three of its goals inside a six-minute span beginning at the 76-minute mark of the second half. The remarkable comeback established Manchester City as champions despite a 3-1 victory by Liverpool over Wolverhampton. Manchester City finished the season with 93 points, one more than Liverpool, while compiling a goal differential which exceeded the goals scored by 17 of the other 19 Premier League clubs.

Manchester City had already scored its third goal on Sunday before Mohamed Salah broke a 1-1 deadlock to put Liverpool ahead for the first time in the 84th minute at Anfield. Salah finished his league season in a tie with Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

An Andy Robertson’s goal five minutes later completed the scoring for the Reds. Liverpool remarkably chased Manchester City to the finish line by going undefeated at home this season and going unbeaten in 2022 league play. The Reds have one more match to play as they attempt to capture a third trophy of the season by winning the Champions League in Paris versus Real Madrid next Saturday. 

Spurs Clinch Champions League As Too Little Too Late For Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur secured Champions League football for next season by rolling over Norwich 5-0 as Son Heung-min scored a brace in the Spurs rout to tie Mohamed Salah for the league scoring lead. Relegated Norwich failed to register a single shot on target. Spurs finished the season by winning four times in an undefeated five match run to leapfrog Arsenal into the top four in the season’s final weeks. The one draw during that run was with Liverpool and effectively cost Liverpool the league title. Dejan Kulusevski also scored a brace for Spurs on the final day. The addition of Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur, who had two assists versus the Canaries, from Juventus in January was instrumental to Spurs late season success. Manager Antonio Conte’s club was eighth in the table in late February before beginning its climb to the Champions League places. Participation in Europe’s top club tournament makes an extended stay in north London more enticing for Conte, Son and one-time wantaway star Harry Kane. Kane scored against the Canaries to finish with 17 goals on the season despite a miserable start to the campaign.

Arsenal finished its season with a 5-1 defeat of Everton. Everton had little interest in the match after ensuring its Premier League survival in a dramatic win over Crystal Palace on Thursday. Arsenal thus faced little opposition in snapping the two-match losing streak which cost the Gunners Champions League football for next season. Unlike Spurs, Arsenal did not reinforce its roster in January after culling several players and may rue fighting for the top four during the stretch run with a thinned roster. Despite late season disappointment the Gunners improved two places from last season’s finish and return to Europe to compete in next season’s Europa League.

Leeds Win Relegates Burnley


The relegation battle ended with Leeds and Manager Jesse Marsch securing their survival with a 2-1 victory at Brentford while Burnley lost 2-1 at home to Newcastle. Leeds needed to better Burnley’s result as the two clubs entered the final match day level on points but with Burnley holding a vastly superior goal differential. A tense match in Brentford saw Leeds’s Raphinha score the first goal on a penalty kick in the 56th minute. A tying goal by Brentford in the 78th minute was followed just two minutes later by a red card which reduced the Bees to 10 men. Leeds’s Jack Harrison scored the stoppage time winner against undermanned Brentford for Leeds’s first win in six matches.

Burnley was unable to match Leeds’s Sunday success and thus relinquished its hold on survival. The Clarets made things interesting when Maxwel Cornet cut Newcastle’s lead in half after two goals by the Magpies’ Callum Wilson. Burnley were unable to find the tying score, however, and even a point would have been insufficient given Leeds’s late winner. The Clarets’ seven year stay in the Premier League thus ends after a miserable season during which the club sacked iconic Manger Sean Dyche. Only Norwich scored fewer goals this season than the Clarets. Leeds, meanwhile, escaped relegation by capturing four points in their final two matches after losing three in a row. 

Hammer Fall Hands Europa To Manchester United

West Ham will not be returning to the Europa League after a 3-1 loss at Brighton. The Hammers squandered a one goal halftime lead to lose for a third time in their final five matches. A win would have moved the club into sixth position in the table past a Manchester United side which lost at Crystal Palace. West Ham Manager David Moyes expressed anger with his players after the match for bottling their chance to return to the Europa League, a competition where the Hammers advanced to the semifinals this past season. Instead, the Hammers will have to settle for the less prestigious Europa Conference League after a seventh-place league finish. West Ham captain Mark Noble played his last game in the Premier League after 414 appearances.

Victorious Brighton concluded a late season run where the Seagulls lost only to titlists Manchester City in winning five and drawing three of their last nine league matches to finish in the top half of the Premier League for the first time. Manchester United were the beneficiaries of West Ham’s defeat as the Red Devils secured Europa League qualification despite their 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace. The Eagles’ Wilfried Zaha scored the only goal of the match versus his former club. Manchester United lost a sixth consecutive away match as it finished with its lowest ever Premier League point total. New Manager Eric ten Hag was in the stands at Selhurst Park for a firsthand view of the challenge he faces. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, recovered from its disheartening loss at Everton on Thursday to finish a promising season on a positive note. The 12th place Eagles finished the season with a positive goal differential in the topflight for the first time since 1991.

Other Action...

Ross Barkly scored a stoppage time goal to give Chelsea a 2-1 victory over Watford. Relegated Watford had tied the match in the 87th minute before Barkley’s winning header. Third place Chelsea finished the season 19 and 18 points behind Manchester City and Liverpool, respectively. Leicester defeated Southampton 4-1 to cap a four-match unbeaten run to end its season. Ayoze Perez scored a brace for the Foxes. Jamie Vardy and James Maddison also scored for Leicester as Maddison ended his season by scoring in four consecutive matches.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Championship Sunday

The Premier League season ends in dramatic fashion Sunday with all ten league games beginning simultaneously to decide races up and down the table. The following is what’s at stake.

The Premier League Title

Manchester City clings to first place by a single point over Liverpool as the defending league champions host Aston Villa in their final match. Aston Villa Manager Steven Gerrard will have an opportunity to deliver yet another trophy to Liverpool, the club he captained for many years, if he can guide the Villans to an upset victory. Other former Liverpool players who can help their former club include Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings. While hope springs eternal for Liverpool fans, Manchester City has defeated Aston Villa in six consecutive league matches and in nine of their last ten meetings. Manchester City has all to play for in front of its home supporters as the Citizens look to wrap up their fourth Premier League title in the last five years. Liverpool is home to Wolverhampton as they chase their second league title in three years. The Reds have won ten consecutive matches against their Sunday opponent and are undefeated at home in the Premier League this season. Despite a one-point deficit in the title race, Liverpool likely needs to win their match, even if Manchester City loses, as the Reds’ goal differential is six goals worse than the league leaders. As Liverpool looks to run down Manchester City on the final day for the title there are also individual honors on the line. Mohamed Salah, despite failing to score a goal in 13 of his last 14 matches, still leads Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min by a single goal in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot. Salah also leads the league in assists with one more than teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Egyptian superstar can thus become the fourth Premier League player to win both the Golden Boot and Golden Playmaker awards.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson each have a joint league leading 20 clean sheets entering the final weekend in the battle for the Golden Glove award. Ederson has won the award in the past two seasons. 

Champions League Qualification

Tottenham Hotspur can secure Champions League football with a win or draw at cellar dwelling Norwich. Spurs carries a two-point advantage and vastly superior goal differential advantage over fifth place Arsenal into the final weekend. Current Spurs and former Chelsea Manager Antonio Conte can become the fifth manager to steer two different Premier League teams into the top four.

Three wins and two draws in their last five matches have moved Spurs ahead of crumbling Arsenal in the top four chase. The Gunners have lost their two matches including a devastating 3-0 shellacking by their north London rivals. A loss by the Gunners this Sunday would establish a club record of 14 losses for a single season. Arsenal needs to defeat Everton at the Emirates Sunday and hope lowly Norwich can shockingly defeat Tottenham Hotspur if the Gunners are to secure improbable Champions League qualification. The Gunners have a fifteen-goal deficit in goal differential versus Tottenham Hotspur entering the final weekend. The pressure is off Arsenal’s opponent, Everton, after the Toffees ensured their Premier League survival with a Thursday win over Crystal Palace. 

Europa League Qualification

Manchester United can suffer one further embarrassment this season. A draw or loss at Crystal Palace in their final match can eliminate the Red Devils from Europa League qualification if West Ham wins at Brighton. Further descent down the table would put an exclamation point on Manchester United’s worst Premier League season. Manchester United cancelled its annual award dinner earlier this week at the request of shamed players. Crystal Palace experienced its own embarrassing moment when the Eagles collapsed mid-week in a come from ahead loss which secured Everton’s Premier League survival. A home win in their final match now becomes more meaningful as the Eagles will want to rebound from Thursday’s debacle where they lost despite holding a two goal second half lead. The three-day turnaround from Thursday’s match for the Eagles contrasts with a 15-day break for Manchester United since the Red Devils were beaten 4-0 at Brighton. West Ham visits the Seagulls Sunday as Manager David Moyes hopes to return his club to Europa League competition after the Hammers impressively advanced to the semifinals of that competition this season. West Ham is assured of a Europa Conference League berth but would like to trade up with Manchester United for the more prestigious Europa League. To do so will require the Hammers to beat the Seagulls for the first time in ten Premier League meetings. Tenth place Brighton is trying to secure its first top half Premier League finish. 

Premier League Survival

And then there were two. Everton removed itself from the relegation scrap with a dramatic come from behind 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace Thursday. Down by two goals at the halftime whistle, Everton’s intensity in the second half overwhelmed Crystal Palace. Calvert-Lewin’s header in the 85th minute clinched survival for the Toffees.

The fans at Goodison Park energized their club throughout the late season survival struggle but may finally have crossed the line of acceptable behavior. Supporters previously made news with late night fireworks to disturb the sleep of Chelsea players and, more dangerously, have been regularly igniting and throwing blue flares within the Goodison confines. Thursday’s historic win was marred by two different pitch invasions and Everton fans physically accosting Crystal Palace players. One Toffee supporter harassed Eagle manager Patrick Vieira on the pitch after the match only to be kicked to the turf by the former Arsenal legend. As Merseyside celebrations continue, two clubs remain at risk of relegation. Burnley grabbed a point in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa Thursday to leapfrog Leeds to safety. The two clubs are level on points, but Burnley has a 20-goal advantage in the goal differential tiebreaker. Leeds must thus better Burnley’s result on Sunday to stay in the Premier League. Burnley is home to Newcastle while Leeds travels to Brentford in the relegation deciding matches. Newcastle and Brentford are both two points behind Brighton for a potential top half finish. 

Not So Much...

Only two matches bear little interest for the unbiased observer. Chelsea is locked in to a third-place finish and Champions Leage qualification as it hosts already relegated Watford at Stamford Bridge. With new ownership pending and several current players departing the club after this season, the Blues are more focused on planning for the future than swatting the Hornets on Sunday. Chelsea have stumbled toward the conclusion of their league season, garnering just twelve points from their last nine league matches following a 1-1 home draw with Leicester on Thursday. Woeful Watford, meanwhile, says goodbye to departing manager Roy Hodgson as the 74-year-old former Liverpool, Fulham, West Brom and Crystral Palace manager bids adieu to the Premier League. Leicester hosts struggling Southampton. Leicester can clinch a top half finish, but Fox supporters will not be impressed after the club barely missed the top four in the previous two seasons. Southampton has won only one match since February and enters the weekend only five points above the drop zone.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Match Week 37 Results: Manchester City Draw Keeps Title Race Alive; Liverpool Downs Saints; Spurs Edge Closer To Champions League; Gunners Misfire; Stinging Defeat For Everton; Leeds Salvages Point

Manchester City missed a chance to put a stranglehold on the Premier League title in a 2-2 draw with West Ham. The dropped points, combined with Liverpool’s Monday win at Southampton, pushes the title determination to the season’s final day this Sunday. The league leaders fell behind 2-0 by halftime at London Stadium as Jarrod Bowen scored a brace for the Hammers. Manchester City’s Jack Grealish scored four minutes into the second half and a West Ham own goal 20 minutes later drew Manchester City level. West Ham’s Lucas Fabianski stopped an 86th minute Riyad Mahrez penalty kick attempt which would have provided City with all three points.

The season will enter its final weekend with Manchester City holding a one-point lead in the title chase, thus requiring Manchester City to match a Liverpool win on the final day. A draw by Liverpool would likely give the title to Manchester City on goal differential (+6) even should the Citizens lose their final game. West Ham is assured of European football next season with a five-point advantage over Wolverhampton for seventh place and Europa Conference League qualification. The Hammers also have a chance to catch Manchester United on the season’s final day to return to the Europa League.

Liverpool forced the title race to the final weekend with a come from behind 2-1 victory over Southampton. Playing with as many as seven reserve players, Liverpool fortuitously got the winner on Joel Matip’s header of a Southampton deflection in the 67th minute.

Nathan Redmond had given the Saints an early lead with his first league goal in more than a year before Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino evened the match before halftime. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among the stars absent from the Liverpool squad as Manager Jurgen Klopp heavily rotated his lineup following the FA Cup final 72 hours earlier.

Tottenham Hotspur took control of the race for the fourth Champions League slot when Spurs defeated Burnley 1-0  Sunday followed by Arsenal’s 2-0 loss at Newcastle  Monday. Tottenham Hotspur has a two-point advantage on the Gunners and faces last place Norwich in their final game. Spurs also enjoy a 15-goal advantage in goal differential over fifth place Arsenal and thus can clinch with a draw next Sunday even if Arsenal should win their match against Everton. Burnley’s hopes for survival took a hit in when Harry Kane converted a penalty kick in first half injury time following a questionable hand ball call against Burnley’s Harvey Barnes. Burnley fell into the relegation zone with the loss, a point behind Leeds for the final safe position. Burnley can climb back to safety, however, with a win or draw Thursday versus Aston Villa.

Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are now all but extinguished after a second consecutive loss. After complaining about the officiating in last Thursday’s loss to Spurs, Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta could only point to the poor play of his team in a 2-0 loss at Newcastle. Arteta’s young squad seemed overwhelmed by the moment as their Champions League participation hung in the balance on Monday. The Gunners were outworked and outplayed by a Newcastle squad which had little left to play for. Arsenal’s lack of threat also highlighted a dearth of attacking quality and again raised questions regarding the club’s January transfer strategy whereby the squad was trimmed with no useful additions being made for the stretch run. An own goal by Arsenal’s Ben White on his deflection of a shot by Newcastle’s Callum Wilson gave Newcastle the lead in the 55th minute. Bruno Guimares sealed the victory for Newcastle with his 85th minute goal as Newcastle swept to a seventh victory in its last eight home matches.

Chelsea was a beneficiary of the Arsenal loss as the Blues are now assured of Champions League qualification. Everton Manager Frank Lampard witnessed his club falter in its bid to clinch Premier League survival in a 3-2 loss to Brentford. An 18th minute red card disadvantaged the Toffees who still took a 2-1 lead into halftime. Brentford became more aggressive in the second half as Manager Thomas Frank adjusted his tactics to employ three men at the back and enable the Bees to press their numerical advantage. The Bees scored in the 62nd and 64th minutes to take all three points. A win by the Toffees would have ensured survival. Instead, the loss to Brentford and last Wednesday’s draw with Watford have put Everton back into the relegation discussion. Everton can remove itself from that discussion, however, with a win against Crystal Palace on Thursday.

Leeds ended a three-match losing run to keep its survival hopes alive when Pascal Struijk scored in injury time of a 1-1 draw with Brighton. Leeds’s seventh goal in added time this season is more than any Premier League club but for Manchester City. Leeds escaped the relegation zone by moving a point ahead of Burnley. The Whites trail the other relegation contender, Everton, by a point. Burnley and Everton, however, both have an additional game mid-week before the final weekend. Wolverhampton was mathematically eliminated from the European places in the table by a 1-1 draw with Norwich. Wolves failed to win for a sixth consecutive time as their once promising season ends dismally.

Watford lost for a 15th time in 19 home matches in a 5-1 loss to Leicester. The Hornets finished their home schedule with a league low two home wins as their 46 home goals conceded was the most by a topflight team since 1960/61. Leicester scored five consecutive goals after Watford took the early lead Sunday as the Foxes embarrassed the relegated Hornets. Leicester’s Jamie Vardy scored a brace for a second consecutive match.

Crystal Palace extended their unbeaten run to four matches when substitute Jeffery Schlup scored late in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. Palace and Villa will weigh in on the relegation battle Thursday when Aston Villa hosts Burnley while Crystal Palace visits Everton. The results of those matches will have a large say in who survives the current relegation fight between Burnley, Everton, and Leeds.

FA Cup

Liverpool won the FA Cup over Chelsea in an eerie replay of the two clubs’ Carabao Cup final from earlier this season. The Reds prevailed in penalty kicks on Saturday after regular and extra time periods failed to produce a goal. Caesar Azpilicueta hit the post with his penalty try and Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker saved the try of Mason Mount to give Liverpool its second trophy of the season. The Reds converted six of their seven penalty kicks as Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy stopped Sadio Mane in an effort that ultimately proved in vain. Liverpool had won the Carabao Cup in penalties when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed his penalty kick, the only miss by either team. Liverpool remains in mathematical contention for a Premier League title to be decided this coming weekend and will attempt to win its second Champions League in four years when it faces Real Madrid on May 28th.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Match Week 37 Preview: West Ham Home To Manchester City; Spurs Look To Crack Top Four; Leeds Adrift As Seagulls Hover; Home Sweet Home As Toffees Face Bees

Manchester City heads next to West Ham in its relentless march to the Premier League title. The Citizens have been merciless during their title drive, outscoring opponents by an average of four goals per game over their last five matches. Manchester City enters the penultimate weekend with a three-point lead on Liverpool and an imposing seven goal advantage in goal differential. West Ham also has something to play for. A victory would catapult the Hammers over idle Manchester United in the race for sixth place and Europa League competition.

West Ham will try to overcome Manchester City’s firepower advantage by capitalizing on a Manchester City defense ravaged by injury.

Liverpool plays in the league Tuesday at Southampton and could be six points behind in the title race should Manchester City win over the weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur, after their resounding victory in the north London derby, can jump past Arsenal into the top four with a win or draw when they host Burnley Sunday. Spurs lost earlier in the season at Burnley but a loss in London to the Clarets would be shocking given the current form of Antonio Conte’s side. A loss combined with an Arsenal victory on Monday eliminates Spurs from Champions League contention. Burnley are currently safe for another season of Premier League football by virtue of a goal differential advantage over Leeds. The Clarets also have a game in hand versus the Whites.

Arsenal could be on the outside looking in when they play at Newcastle Monday as the Gunners will trail in the top four race if Spurs gets a result versus Burnley on Sunday. Arsenal folded at rival Spurs on Thursday and now visits St. James Park where Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe will try to further make his case to ownership that he is the man to lead the Newcastle transformation next season.

Arsenal has not conceded a goal to Newcastle in their last seven meetings in all competitions but could be shorthanded in defense due to injuries and suspensions. Injury doubts surround center backs Gabriel and Ben White while Rob Holding is suspended after his red card versus Spurs.

Leeds has incurred red cards and suspensions in its last two matches and has lost three consecutive matches to become the relegation favorite. Worse yet, Manager Jesse Marsch has drawn comparison to television’s Ted Lasso with the use of Mahatma Gandhi quotes and questionable tactics during the losing run. The spiraling Whites are home at Elland Road to face Brighton. Ninth place Brighton is chasing its first top half finish in the Premier League.

Everton, two points better than relegation rivals Burnley and Leeds, returns to the friendly confines of Goodison Park to face Brentford. Everton has earned 26 of its 36 points this season at home. Brentford has little to play for but has been in good form, losing just one of its last six league matches.

Wolverhampton is home to Norwich as Wolves retain a slim chance to play in Europe next season. The club has faltered in recent weeks to trail West Ham by five points for a Europa Conference League berth. Already relegated Norwich will finish the season with the worst goal differential in Premier League history.

The other club which has clinched relegation is Watford. The Hornets host Leicester at Vicarage Road in a match of little interest to either club. While far removed from any relegation concern, 10th place Leicester also looks forward to the end of a disappointing season. Leicester fans may be finding more enjoyment in the “Wagatha Christie” court proceedings where the wife of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, Rebekah Vardy, is suing Colleen Rooney, wife of Wayne, for defamation.

Crystal Palace visits Aston Villa in another match with little table consequence as Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard complete relatively successful first seasons as Premier League managers. Aston Villa has exercised its option to permanently acquire the services of Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho.  

Mid-Week Results: De Bruyne Leads Manchester City Romp; Spurs Defeat Imploding Arsenal; Chelsea Spanks Leeds; Everton Gets Point

Manchester City remained relentless in its pursuit of a fourth Premier League title in five years as the Citizens slaughtered Wolves 5-1 at Molineux Stadium. Kevin De Bruyne scored four times for the league leaders and had a hat trick in the books after only 24 minutes. Manchester City has now outscored opponents 22-2 in its last five matches.

The defending league titlists maintained a three-point lead over Liverpool which defeated Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday. Sadio Mane had the winner for his 15th goal of the season. Liverpool’s goal differential disadvantage versus Manchester City grew to seven goals after the two clubs’ midweek results.

The north London derby saw a cagey Spurs side embarrass their young Arsenal rivals 3-0 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Son Heung-min scored for his club but was also influential in drawing fouls from an undisciplined Arsenal squad. Son drew a penalty call in the 22nd minute when he went down in the box on contact with Arsenal defender Cedric Soares. Spurs captain Harry Kane converted the penalty. Arsenal defender Rob Holding was ejected in the 33rd minute after incurring a second yellow card in a foul of Son. Kane scored four minutes later. Son rapped things up with a goal in the 47th minute.

Undisciplined Arsenal has accumulated more red cards than any other Premier League club since Mikel Arteta became manager in 2019. Arteta’s apparent outrage at the officiating in his post-match performance thus elicited little sympathy. Spurs and Manager Antonio Conte delivered a master class as they moved to within a point of Arsenal in the Champions League race.

Everton inched closer to Premier League survival, capturing a point in a goalless draw at Watford. The Toffees would have hoped for more from their visit to the already relegated Hornets, but a point doubles their margin over relegation rivals Burnley and Leeds.

Leeds was overrun 3-0 by Chelsea. Mason Mount scored for Chelsea after just four minutes. Daniel James received a red card for Leeds in the 24th minute. Romelu Lukaku and Christian Pulisic were the other scorers for the Blues. Leeds was assessed a red card for a second straight match and lost for a third consecutive time as the relegation door beckons American manager Jesse Marsch and his charges.

Norwich is already relegated and lost at Leicester 3-0 on Wednesday. Jamie Vardy scored twice for Leicester. 

FA Cup

Liverpool faces Chelsea in the FA Cup Final on Saturday. The Reds triumphed over the Blues when the clubs met earlier this season in the Carabao Cup final. That match was decided in dramatic fashion on penalty kicks requiring kicks to be taken by the respective clubs’ goalkeepers. Chelsea gets a rematch on its third consecutive visit to the FA Cup final, having lost to Arsenal and Leicester in the past two finals. Liverpool is playing its first FA Cup final in ten years. The Reds remain in contention this season for four trophies though catching Manchester City for the Premier League title seems increasingly unlikely. Liverpool plays Real Madrid for the Champions League title on May 28th

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Mid-Week Action: Champions League On Line In North London; Key Relegation Battles

Arsenal can punch its Champions League ticket this week if the Gunners defeat Tottenham Hotspur in Thursday’s north London Derby. Arsenal leads its historic rival by four points with three matches left for each team entering Thursday’s clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A victory over Spurs would return Arsenal to Europe’s most prestigious club competition next year after a five-year absence.

Tottenham Hotspur is already assured of Europa League competition next season, but Champions League has far greater financial and talent retention benefit. Champions League qualification could have bearing on the future of Harry Kane and Antonio Conte whose potential departures from Tottenham Hotspur have often been the subject of speculation. Qualification for the Gunners, meanwhile, would validate the success of Mikel Arteta’s often painful roster transforming project at Arsenal.

A busy midweek schedule also has both league title contenders in action as well as two of the three clubs battling to avoid relegation. Liverpool, now trailing league leader Manchester City by three points, visits Aston Villa on Tuesday. Further derailing of Liverpool’s title hopes by former Liverpool captain and current Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard would be a bitter pill for Red supporters.

Manchester City visits Wolves the following day. The Citizens have been steamrolling league competition in recent matches even as the lack of a true striker has proved problematic in European competition. The club took a step toward addressing its striker deficiency when it announced this week an agreement with Borussia Dortmund to acquire the services of Erling Haaland. The long-rumored transaction remains subject to finalizing personal terms with Haaland, such terms widely believed to have already been agreed. Haaland adds more firepower to a team that has scored the most goals in the Premier League this season. The recent wild scoring spree for Manchester City, where the Citizens have struck for 17 goals in their last four league matches, should be tempered this week by a Wolves defense which has allowed fewer goals than all but the league’s top three teams. Wolves are barely hanging on to European hopes, trailing West Ham by five points for the chance to compete in the Europa Conference League next season.

Chelsea has not yet clinched Champions League qualification entering its match at Leeds Wednesday. A poor run of form has seen the London club win just one of its last five league matches and leaves the third place Blues one point ahead of Arsenal, five points above fifth place Spurs. Leeds, meanwhile, would be relegated if the season ended today as Manager Jesse Marsch’s Whites have been unable to keep pace with recent successful runs by Burnley and Everton in the survival battle. Leeds have lost two in a row and have won just one of their last five to fall into the relegation zone.

Everton, winner of back-to-back matches, faces newly relegated Watford on Wednesday.

The Toffees have taken command of the survival race by taking 10 of the last 15 league points available to them. Of less consequence this week is the match between Leicester and Norwich at King Power Stadium. Leicester has fallen all the way to 14th position in the table as the disappointing Foxes prepare for their Wednesday match with relegated Norwich. 

Match Week 36 Results: Manchester City Moves Closer As Spurs Stymie Liverpool; Arsenal Defeats Leeds; Everton Strikes Again; Burnley Bashed; Watford Relegated; Seagulls Embarrass Manchester United

Manchester City tightened its grip on a second consecutive Premier League title and its fourth championship in the last five years when the Mancunians defeated Newcastle 5-0 a day after second place Liverpool dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester City now have a three-point lead on Liverpool in the title chase with both clubs having three matches left. Manchester City has also soared past Liverpool in goal differential. Manchester City has outscored opponents by an aggregate 17-1 in their last four matches to vault to a four-goal advantage over the Reds in the critical tiebreaking metric. Raheem Sterling scored a brace in a rare start for the Citizens. Newcastle, narrow losers to Liverpool the week before, were overrun by the league leaders who were able to flex their muscles against a weaker league opponent after being ousted from the Champions League once again during the week.

Liverpool ‘s hopes for a Premier League title and possible “quadruple” this season were damaged in a 1-1 tie with Tottenham Hotspur the day after Manchester City’s lopsided win over Newcastle. The Reds were frustrated by Spurs’ defensive approach to the match and only salvaged the point on a heavily deflected goal by Liverpool’s Luis Diaz in the 79th minute. Son Heung-min had given Spurs a short lived second half lead with his 20th goal of the season. The Tottenham star is now just two goals behind the league leading pace of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah who had a quiet game on Saturday. The stress of the title race was evident in the post-match remarks of disappointed Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp who disparaged Spurs’ defensive approach to the game. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, was similarly emotional as he bemoaned over the weekend that more fans support Liverpool than his Manchester City side. Despite the point at Anfield, Tottenham Hotspur lost ground in their pursuit of Arsenal and Champions League qualification for next year.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah scored twice in the opening 10 minutes of the Gunners’ 2-1 victory over Leeds at the Emirates.

Arsenal’s fourth consecutive victory puts the club in position to clinch fourth place with a victory in the north London derby on Thursday. Leeds went to ten men in the 27th minute at the Emirates when captain Luke Ayling received a red card on a poor and unthinking challenge. Ayling will be suspended for the rest of the season as his club battles to escape the relegation zone. The ever-thinning Leeds roster lost key player Stuart Dallas to season ending injury last week while injured striker Patrick Bamford has missed much of the season and is unlikely to return to the relegation battle.

Everton climbed over Leeds to escape the relegation zone with a second consecutive victory as the Toffees defeated Leicester 2-1 at King Power Stadium. Frank Lampard won his first away match as Toffees manager and has silenced doubters who voiced concerns that he was not the man to lead a relegation fight. The battle is not over for the Toffees, but they have changed the relegation race with their two consecutive victories. A booming shot by left back Vitalii Mykolenko and a forceful header by Mason Holgate sandwiched a goal by Leicester’s Patson Daka in the Everton win. Holgate’s winner came on his alert putback when Leicester goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel weakly batted away a free header by Everton’s Richarlison on an Everton corner kick. The Foxes continue to be almost comical in their defense of set pieces. The 2-1 halftime lead held up for the Toffees as Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford kept the Foxes at bay in a scoreless second half. Everton moved a point ahead of Leeds and Burnley who both lost on the weekend.

Burnley’s magical four match run ended in a damaging 3-1 home defeat versus Aston Villa. Mike Jackson was unbeaten in his first four matches as Burnley manager, winning his last three, to move the Clarets to safety in the table. His first loss leaves them still safe but perilously holding on by virtue of a better goal differential than Leeds. Burnley will play Aston Villa again in the season’s waning weeks as the Villans play the role of potential spoilers in both the relegation and title races. Aston Villa manger Steven Gerrard faces former club Liverpool on Tuesday, and the Villans will finish the season at Manchester City.

Manchester United were mathematically eliminated from Champions League qualification in a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Brighton. A fifth consecutive away loss saw the Red Devils concede four goals to the league’s fourth lowest scoring club. At one point this season the Seagulls had failed to score in five consecutive home matches. Yet the Seagulls were explosive against a poor Manchester United side which cannot wait for the season to be over. Manchester United is now guaranteed to finish the season with its lowest ever Premier League point total. Brighton, meanwhile, has already accumulated the club’s highest point total for a Premier League season as the Seagulls continue their quest for a top half finish.

West Ham remains a threat to Manchester United’s Europa League qualification after the Hammers put a 4-0 hammering on already relegated Norwich. West Ham trails Manchester United by three points for sixth position in the table but has a game in hand and superior goal differential versus the Red Devils. The Hammers are also likely to be more motivated than dispirited Manchester United. Said Benrahma had a brace for West Ham which increased its advantage over Wolverhampton for the Europa Conference League berth to five points.

Wolves ended a three-match losing run in a come from behind 2-2 draw at Chelsea as Chelsea’s defense suffered another late-stage collapse. Romelu Lukaku took advantage of a rare start to provide Chelsea a two-goal lead. Lukaku scored in the 58th minute on an assist from Christian Pulisic for his second goal of the match just two minutes after the Belgian striker opened scoring with a successful penalty try. Wolves clawed back, however, with a 79th minute goal by substitute Machado Trincao. Conor Cody’s stoppage time header completed the comeback for Wolves. The late goals continued an alarming  trend for Chelsea whereby 13 of the last 15 goals conceded by the Blues have come in the second half of matches. Third place Chelsea finished the weekend a point ahead of Arsenal but, more importantly five points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur as the Blues try to lock down Champions League for next season. A consortium led by Todd Boehly has reportedly reached agreement to buy Chelsea and the American part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was at Stamford Bridge to see Saturday’s collapse.

Watford were officially relegated in a 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace as Watford Manager Roy Hodgson suffered his first Premier League relegation at the hands of a club he kept safe for four seasons in happier times for the veteran manager. Wilfried Zaha’s first half penalty kick provided the only scoring in the Eagle victory. Zaha’s 13th goal of the season adds to his most productive goal scoring campaign in the Premier League. Hodgson came in for criticism after the match for acknowledging the Crystal Palace fans and not his traveling Hornet supporters. Hodgson presumably would like to forget his Watford managerial experience where he has won just two of fifteen matches in charge. Watford, who went down to ten men after a 68th minute red car, lost for a sixth consecutive match to seal their relegation fate.

Brentford, promoted to the Premier League this season this season along with “one and done” Watford and Norwich, advanced to 12th position in the table with a 3-0 trouncing of Southampton at Brentford Community Stadium. The Bees have won six of their last nine league matches and registered a fourth consecutive home clean sheet. Southampton are 15th in the table after winning just one of their last 10 league matches. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Match Week 36 Preview: Races On! ; Spurs Visit Anfield; City Hosts Newcastle; Gunners Set Sights on Leeds; Everton At Leicester in Hunt For Survival; Burnley Looks To Extend Unbeaten Run; Hammers Need Points At Norwich; Chelsea Face Wolves In London; Another Farewell For Roy

Eight of ten matches this weekend have bearing on Premier League races. The league title, relegation, and qualification for all three European competitions next year remain in play as the season enters its final weeks. Liverpool hosts Spurs on Saturday hoping to take over first place in the table before Manchester City faces Newcastle the following day. Liverpool have not lost a home match this season and are undefeated in the league in 2022 as they try to chase down Manchester City. Spurs, meanwhile, are two points behind Arsenal for the fourth Champions League slot as the two north London rivals hurtle toward their May 12th meeting.

Newcastle visits Manchester City for another opportunity to influence the race after a loss to Liverpool last week. Manchester City, eliminated from all cup competitions after this week’s Champions League loss, has a one-point lead on Liverpool entering the weekend as the Citizens try to hold on to the first position in the table which they have occupied since December 4th. Newcastle, chasing a top half finish, has lost on its last twelve visits to the Etihad.

Fourth place Arsenal is home to Leeds this weekend. The Gunners have won three consecutive matches to surge past Tottenham Hotspur as Arsenal seeks to return to the Champions League after a five-year absence. Leeds, meanwhile, has been drawn into the relegation scrap as both Burnley and Everton have accumulated more points than the Whites over the past four matches.

Leeds has a two-point advantage over Everton for the last safe position in the table but have played one additional match than the Toffees. Leeds, which is currently level on points with Burnley, loses any goal differential tiebreaker against either Burnley or Everton.

Everton is away at Leicester this weekend as the league’s worst road warriors try to win away from Goodison Park for the first time under Manager Frank Lampard. Leicester, eliminated from the Europa Conference League this week, is looking for a top half finish to what has been a highly disappointing season.

Burnley, winner of three straight matches, is home to Aston Villa as the Clarets fight to stay in the Premier League for a seventh consecutive Premier League season. Burnley is undefeated in four matches under interim Manager Mike Jackson to emerge from near certain relegation. Aston Villa is three points behind 10th place Newcastle as Manager Steven Gerrard tries to lead the Villans into the top half of the table.

Manchester United has a six-point advantage over West Ham for sixth place and Europa League qualification. The Red Devils are at Brighton this weekend hoping to enjoy their visit to the coast as much as Brighton’s previous opponents.

Only Norwich and Watford, two clubs who will be playing in the English Championship division next season, have captured fewer points at home than the Seagulls. Manchester United, however, have lost their last four league away matches.

West Ham is in a tricky spot after losing three of its last league matches. The Hammers trail Manchester United by six points but have a match in hand which provides some hope for the Hammers to return to the Europa League. Seventh place West Ham, however, is also in danger of losing its current Europa Conference League spot in the table. Wolves are three points behind West Ham and have played one fewer match than the Hammers. West Ham needs to shake off its loss at Eintracht Frankfurt Thursday, refocus on its domestic league, and capture all three points at relegated Norwich this week.

Wolves will have a tough time making up ground this week as they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where they are winless in the last eight visits. Manager Bruno Lage’s Wolverhampton side has lost four of its last five league matches to damage its European hopes.

Crystal Palace will host Watford with a chance to relegate the Hornets. Watford Manager Roy Hodgson, who has announced his return to retirement following this season, could be hard done by the Eagles he managed for four seasons. Crystal Palace has lost fewer times at home than all but the top three teams this season. Unfortunately, 8 of their 17 matches at Selhurst Park have resulted in draws.

Southampton travels to London to face Brentford in a battle of two clubs situated comfortably mid-table. The clubs are level on 40 points, but the Saints have won just 3 of their 17 away matches entering this weekend’s match at Brentford and the Bees have registered clean sheets in their last three home matches.