Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 38: Down Go Leicester and Leeds As Everton Survives; Aston Villa Heads To Europe As Spurs Stay Home; Pochettino To Take Over At Chelsea

Everton has barely escaped relegation once again. The escape artists in blue required an additional week versus last year to ensure their survival, pushing it to the final match day before defeating Bournemouth 1-0 to lock up the final spot in the Premier League for next season. Abdel Doucoure struck the winner in the 57th minute and Jordan Pickford made one last sensational save and it was job done for the Toffees. The question now becomes whether Everton will take the necessary actions to avoid this annual nail-biting experience. The club is still facing financial strictures which limit the change that can be made to a poor squad. There is also the question of whether Manger Sean Dyche is the man to lead an Everton rebuild. He delivered safety largely though the defensive pragmatism and mental toughness he displayed at Burnley. Dyche was perhaps precisely the right man to drag this threadbare Everton roster across the finish line. But can he one day lead Everton into the top half?

Everton’s huge sigh of relief contrasted with the disappointment, resignation and a bit of anger felt by supporters of Leicester and Leeds. Leicester did their bit on the final day, beating West Ham 2-1 but it was too little, too late for the Foxes and Manager Dean Smith. Smith was relegated for a second consecutive year, having taken Norwich down last year. Smith only shares the blame, however, having taken over from Brendan Rodgers with eight matches remaining in a shockingly poor season for the one-time Premier League champions who were a top half club each of the previous five seasons. The Leicester roster is much better than Everton’s and arguably quite a few other clubs farther up the table. Unfortunately, the squad is unbalanced with an attack which scored more goals than any club in the bottom half the table and a defense which conceded the fourth highest number of goals in the league this season. It was still somewhat odd to see players such as James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Kelechi Iheanacho  hanging their heads after the Foxes’ fate was sealed.

Leeds’s relegation, on the other hand, was less surprising. Like Everton, the Whites had struggled to survive the previous season and there was little to recommend a comfortable ride this season. A 4-1 thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur put an exclamation point on a season where the Whites conceded a league high 78 goals in their 39 matches. It’s two relegations in three years for Leeds Manager Sam Allardyce as the Whites head down to the second tier where their opponents will include West Bromwich Albion, a team which Allardyce took down at the end of the 2020/21 season. Allardyce at least picked up a nice paycheck for the four matches he was on the touch line. The desperation appointment of Allardyce proved a failure as Big Sam failed to deliver a single win as the club continued its descent from a barely safe position at the time of his appointment to their ultimate dismissal from England’s top tier. Tottenham Hotspur’s dismantling of Leeds on the final day was a hollow victory for the north London side which lost out on a European place for next year when Aston Villa defeated Brighton. Harry Kane scored his 29th and 30th Premier League goals of the season for Spurs as conversation will now once again turn to the striker’s future. Does Kane loyally stay the course by staying at the club where he is a club legend? Or does he seek to win trophies at a more competitive top club?

Kane’s contract has one year to run before he can walk as a free agent so both Kane and Spurs management must wrestle with his future as suitors such as Manchester United are rumored to be in the picture. And, oh by the way, Spurs are still searching for a permanent manager.

Aston Villa will compete in the Europa Conference League next season as the club’s 2-1 victory over Brighton at Villa Park kept the Villans a point ahead of Spurs for the league’s final European place. The victory punctuated a striking turn in the club’s fortunes following the appointment of Manager Unai Emery. The club were safe only by virtue of goal differential when Manager Steven Gerrard was sacked and replaced by the one-time Arsenal manager. From the time of Emery’s appointment, Aston Villa would accumulate the fifth highest point total in the league.

A far different scenario unfolded with the appointment of Frank Lampard to his interim role at Chelsea. From the time of Lampard’s appointment, Chelsea accumulated the second fewest points in the league, winning just once in nine league contests, eleven matches in total, despite having one of the league’s most expensive squads. Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle was one of the better outings under Lampard. The best news for Chelsea fans came on Monday, however, as the club formally announced Mauricio Pochettino as manager with effect from July 1st. The long-rumored appointment is a first step to restoring order at Stamford Bridge after the club suffered its lowest point total and first bottom half finish in more than a quarter century.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Premier League Preview Match Week 38: Conference League Qualification and Relegation To Be Decided

The Premier League title is decided. The Champions League and Europa League spots are set. Brighton’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Wednesday punched the Seagulls’ ticket for the Europa League. Manchester United clinched the final Champions League berth with a 4-1 win over Chelsea on Thursday. Liverpool thus joins Brighton in the Europa League next season.

There’s just one European place remaining as Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Brentford are still contending to participate in next season’s Europa Conference League. Villa currently leads the chase for seventh by a point over Spurs and two points over the Bees. An Aston Villa win at home versus Brighton on Sunday would send the club back to Europe for the first time in more than a decade. Anything less than a victory and things could get sticky for Manager Unai Emery’s side, though Spurs and Brentford face tricky matches.

Tottenham Hotspur, losers in three of their last four outings, must travel to Leeds where Sam Allardyce and his Whites need a win (and some help from others) to ensure their Premier League survival.

Brentford has mounted a late bid for European qualification by winning four of its last five league matches. Their final matchup, however, is home to Manchester City. This year’s title champion no longer has anything to play for in the league but even a heavily rotated side will bring a daunting level of talent to the pitch. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola was also visibly frustrated with his side’s performance in the draw with Brighton during the week and will want a better performance Sunday. The Bees, however, will be flying in front of supporters who have already seen Brentford lock in a top half finish in England’s topflight for the first time in club history and now have their sights on an improbable European qualification.

The other questions to be decided Sunday surround the relegation battle between Everton, Leicester and Leeds as only one of those clubs will be in the Premier League next season, the other two joining already relegated Southampton in the second tier. Everton is currently safe in 17th position, two points ahead of both Leicester and Leeds, entering a Sunday match in front of the Goodison faithful versus Bournemouth. A home match against a club already “on the beach” would seemingly bode well for the Toffees. Everton, however, has stumbled at home recently. The Toffees have been outscored by an aggregate 10-2 margin in three consecutive home losses. Leeds have drawn their last two matches at home after having been embarrassed 6-1 by Liverpool at Elland Road back in April. Nothing less than a win over Spurs, which would be Leeds’s first victory in the last nine matches, will do on Sunday pending Everton’s result and how Leicester fares at King Power Stadium against West Ham. The Foxes survive if they defeat the Hammers and Everton does no more than draw against Bournemouth. Leicester has a seemingly insurmountable goal differential advantage versus both its relegation rivals should tiebreakers come into play. All this weekend’s matches will be played simultaneously on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 37: Arsenal Loses, Handing Title to Manchester City; Nottingham Forest Safe As Three Clubs Still Battle For Safety; Newcastle Secures Champions League; Liverpool Top Four Hopes Dim After Drawing Aston Villa While Manchester United Wins; Brighton Heading to Europe

A listless 1-0 loss by Arsenal at Nottingham Forest on Saturday made Manchester City the Premier League champions before the Citizens even took the field on Sunday. The title celebrations thus dwarfed a 1-0 victory at the Etihad by a heavily rotated Manchester City’s side, a goal by Julian Alvarez providing all that was needed against toothless Chelsea. Manchester City is champion for the fifth time in six seasons, winning the title for a third consecutive year.

Arsenal can only rue what might have been as they capture the dubious honor of being the club to have led the Premier League for the longest period of any season without capturing the title. The Gunners led the league for more than 90% of the season but fell short in the end as their lack of experience and squad depth came to the fore in an epic late season collapse. The Gunners were eight points ahead of Manchester City on April 1st only to drop 15 points over their next eight matches to fumble away the title. The sad thing is that second in the league is more than what Gunner fans would have hoped for entering this season. The poor form down the final stretch, however, will dominate memories of the Arsenal season.

Manchester City, meanwhile, have checked off the first box of what could be a historic treble. After a middling start to the season, Manager Pep Guardiola has his side firing on all cylinders. The Citizens have won 12 consecutive Premier League matches to overtake Arsenal. The focus for Manchester City now becomes an FA Cup final versus rival Manchester United followed by a Champions League final against Inter Milan.

Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, proved much more than a title chase spoiler at the City Ground on Saturday. Taiwo Awoniyi’s ninth goal of the season, his fifth goal in his last three matches, saw the Tricky Trees lock in their Premier League survival with their win over Arsenal. Forest won for the third time in its last five matches, losing just once in that stretch, to pull clear of the relegation battle with one match to play. Kudos to Nottingham Forest Manager Steve Cooper, one of only two managers in the bottom half of the table who began this season with his current club. The City Ground once again proved a fortress for Nottingham Forest. The Tricky Trees have captured eight of their nine victories and 30 of their 37 points this season at their home ground.

Newcastle United fans are also celebrating as the Magpies clinched Champions League football for next season, capturing the needed point total in a goalless draw with Leicester. Leicester Manager Dean Smith seemed to be playing for the point as he benched attacking players James Maddison and Harvey Barnes in favor of a more defensive lineup. The strategy, though successful in achieving Smith’s seeming objective, raised questions in the context of the complicated survival scenarios at the bottom of the table. The point versus Newcastle means that a Leicester win over West Ham next week will mean survival for the Foxes should Everton achieve no more than a draw in their own match with Bournemouth. A Leicester loss to Newcastle would have required Everton to lose on the final weekend. Three points against Newcastle, however, would have lifted Leicester to a position of safety, albeit on goal differential, entering the final week.

The stage is now set for Week 38 to decide the survival of one of three clubs left in the relegation rumble. Everton is currently safe by a two-point margin over both Leicester and Leeds. The latter two clubs are locked on the same 31 points with Leicester having the far better goal differential over Leeds, and Everton as well. Everton notched a critical point Saturday with a dramatic Yerry Mina goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time in a 1-1 final at Wolves. Leeds, meanwhile, was terrible in a 3-1 loss at West Ham. The Whites still have a chance at survival, but the sun would seem to be setting on their Premier League run after Leeds failed to hold on to a half time lead for a second consecutive week. Leeds Manager Sam Allardyce, facing his second relegation after going down with West Brom two years ago, had nothing but criticism for his players after the West Ham loss and seems resigned to his fate. Leeds has lost three of four matches since the appointment of Allardyce.

With Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle all having qualified for Champions League berths, the chase for the final spot in next year’s competition comes down to Manchester United and Liverpool. Manchester United leads that battle by three points after the Red Devils defeated Bournemouth 1-0 and Liverpool drew 1-1 with Aston Villa.  An overhead bicycle kick by Casemiro in the 9th minute held up for the Red Devils at the home of the Cherries. United has weathered the absence of leading scorer Marcus Rashford to win its last two matches with three different players accounting for the goals. Manchester United can clinch Champions League qualification with a draw or tie against Chelsea on Thursday.

Liverpool failed to win for the first time in eight matches in its draw with Aston Villa. A dramatic 89th minute goal by Bobby Firmino, however, kept Champions League hopes alive for the moment. It was Firmino’s final home match for Liverpool in front of the admiring Anfield supporters. The point for Aston Villa, combined with Tottenham Hotspurs 3-1 loss to Brentford, puts Manager Unai Emery’s squad into seventh place and a presumptive Europa Conference League berth with one match to play.

It was a familiar story for Harry Kane in his 300th appearance for Tottenham Hotspur as the striker scored and Spurs lost. The defeat was the fifth in seven matches as Tottenham Hotspur could well play itself out of the European places altogether. Brentford, meanwhile, got a brace from Bryan Mbeumo to win for the fourth time in the Bees’ last five outings. The scramble for the Europa Conference League berth now includes the Bees who are one point behind Spurs and two points behind seventh place Aston Villa as each club has one match to play.

Brighton has all but secured a Europa League berth after a 3-1 win by the Seagulls at Southampton. While Aston Villa could theoretically match Brighton’s point total, the Seagulls have an overwhelming goal differential advantage. If nothing else, the win at Southampton ensures the Seagulls will be in Europe next season for the first time in their history.

In perhaps the only match that had no bearing on anything this past weekend, Crystal Palace earned a 2-2 draw with Fulham on an equalizing 83rd minute goal by defender Joel Ward, his first scoring strike in four years. Both Fulham goals came from striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who made his first start since sitting out an eight-match suspension.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Premier League Preview: Match Week 37

Manchester City can win the Premier League this weekend. If Arsenal loses on Saturday, the Citizens take to the pitch Sunday with the title in hand. If Arsenal wins its match versus Nottingham Forest, Manchester City can successfully defend its title with a win over Chelsea on Sunday. Arsenal suffered a devastating blow to their title chase in losing to Brighton last week and their response Saturday will be interesting against a Nottingham Forest side which is still fighting to return to the league next season. Manchester City is coming off a big win over Real Madrid during the week and will be heavy favorites over a dysfunctional Chelsea squad which is still awaiting a contract signature from rumored new manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Third place Newcastle will play Monday against poor, poor Leicester after the Magpies registered an impressive 4-1 victory over Brighton Thursday. Manager Eddie Howe and his Geordies took a major step to securing their Champions League qualification by putting down a quality Brighton side at St. James Park. The score was perhaps misleading as Newcastle finished with a flourish in scoring goals in the 89th minute and in stoppage time.

Leicester now trudges to St. James Park with the Foxes’ hopes for league survival hanging by a thread. Only Leeds concedes more goals than Leicester and the Foxes were true to form in allowing eight goals by the opposition in two consecutive losses that have landed them in the relegation zone. Newcastle is in a three-way battle for two Champions League spots with Manchester United and Liverpool, all three clubs already guaranteed a Europa League berth at minimum.

The Red Devils travel to Bournemouth Saturday to face a Cherries side which has already assured its survival and thus has far less to play for than the visitors. Liverpool could face a stiffer challenge when Aston villa comes to Anfield Saturday. The Birmingham club is in its own three-way battle with Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur for the remaining Europa League berth and the single Europa Conference League spot. Villa is currently outside the remaining European places on a slim goal differential deficit. If Aston Villa can spring an upset at Liverpool, the Villans host Brighton on the final day of the season.

Brighton is home to already relegated Southampton on Sunday. A win over the Saints combined with victory over Manchester City Wednesday would clinch Europa League for the Seagulls in advance of the final weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur hosts a London derby versus Brentford on Saturday. The Bees have won three of four matches but will be without leading scorer Ivan Toney. The striker was assessed an eight-month suspension this week for gambling violations. Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane has continued to consistently shine despite his club’s late season swoon. A goal on Saturday would make Kane the first player to score in 25 different fixtures of a 38 match Premier League season. After facing the Bees, Spurs finish the season at relegation threatened Leeds the following week.

Leeds and Leicester are the two clubs which could be relegated this weekend under various scenarios. Leeds Manger Sam Allardyce, appointed just two matches ago, is trying to instill his defensive principles into a side which has conceded more goals than any club in the five major European leagues since the beginning of last season. A Leeds win at West Ham would extend the Whites’ survival chances to the final week. The Hammers are a comfortable six points clear of the drop line and have been chiefly focused on their European adventures while dropping four of their last five Premier League matches.

Everton is currently clinging to safety by a point over Leeds and two points over Leicester. The Toffees are at Wolves on Saturday before finishing their season at home against Bournemouth on the final weekend. Everton would need other results to fall their way to clinch their own survival this weekend, but a Toffee win would relegate Leicester.

Outside the realm of any form of qualification or survival drama is the London derby on Saturday between Fulham and Crystal Palace. The Cottagers are home at Craven Cottage needing just three points to surpass their highest season point total in club history. Ironically, current Crystal Palace Manager Roy Hodgson was the manager for that 2008/2009 Fulham side. The 75-year-old Hodgson has won five of his eight matches in charge of the Eagles this season and is now rumored to return next season. 

Premier League in Europe

Manchester City put on a clinic in humiliating defending Champions League winner Real Madrid 4-0 at the Etihad on Wednesday to win their semifinal tie by an aggregate 5-1 margin. The Premier League side smothered their storied opponent with aggressive pressing from the outset. Bernardo Silva scored twice in the first half for Manchester City with second half goals being added by Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez. The margin would have been greater but for two outstanding first half saves made by Real goalkeeper Thibault Courtois against Erling Haaland. The ease with which Manchester City swept by the defending champions will make the Premier League side a heavy favorite against Inter Milan in the June final. In addition to its pursuit of a first Champions League title, Manchester City is at the threshold of a historic treble. The Premier League title can be clinched as early as this weekend and an FA Cup final against Manchester United is also on the cards.

West Ham is also experiencing European success as the Hammers have advanced to the Europa Conference League final to face Serie A club Fiorentina.  A 1-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar on Thursday was more than enough to put the Hammers through to the final by an aggregate 3-1 margin over their Dutch opponent. Only the winner of the West Ham and Fiorentina match will see European competition next season as both clubs are struggling domestically. Despite a disappointing Premier League season, West Ham finds itself in its first European final since 1976. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 36: Title Chase Looks Like Over As Arsenal Loses; Brighton And Aston Villa Tighten Europa League Race; Liverpool’s Late Run Continues; Southampton Heads South; Four Clubs Remain in Tight Relegation Battle

Arsenal looks done. An unexpected title challenge which saw the Gunners top the table for much of the season, has come unglued over the last seven matches. Brighton defeated the Gunners 3-0 at the Emirates shortly after Manchester City defeated Everton by the same score on Sunday. Those results extended Manchester City’s lead to four points over Arsenal with the defending champions also having a match in hand versus the Gunners. The Citizens, with a current 20 goal advantage in the goal differential tiebreaker, would realistically need just two points from their remaining three matches to take the Premier League title even if Arsenal were to win their remaining two matches. Veteran midfielder Ilkay Gundogan almost singlehandedly defeated Everton on Sunday by scoring two and assisting the third of Manchester City’s goals.

Arsenal’s failure to score in its home loss to Brighton was the latest stumble in a stretch run which has seen the Gunners drop 12 points over their last seven matches while winning just twice. Manchester City, peaking at just the right time this season, has won eleven consecutive Premier League matches to overtake the Gunners.

The win by Brighton, meanwhile, heightens the drama in the battle for Europa League qualification. Manager Roberto De Zerbi has already led the Seagulls to a club record number of points and now has the Seagulls at the threshold of European qualification. Sunday’s win moved the Seagulls into sixth position in the table, one point ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa who have both played two more matches than Brighton. Aston Villa are level with Tottenham Hotspur on points after a 2-1 victory over Spurs at Villa Park. The Villans have further work to do as Manager Unai Emery’s side still trails Spurs on goal differential. Spurs are spiraling, however, after losing four of their last six matches to put European qualification in jeopardy as their search for a permanent manager seems to be flailing as well. Harry Kane, the scorer of a consolation goal Saturday, must be thinking long and hard on his future. The future looks bright for Aston Villa who seem to have found their man in Emery. The Spanish manager took over the club when Aston Villa were just a point above the relegation zone, and he now has them challenging for a berth in the Europe League competition where he has led two other clubs to the trophy.

Liverpool has clinched a Europa League berth and is eying what would be a surprising Champions League slot after a 3-0 defeat of Leicester. The Reds seventh consecutive win gives them a chance to salvage a meaningful finish to what has been a largely disappointing season. Newcastle and Manchester United are just a point ahead of fifth place Liverpool, though both have played one additional match. Liverpool’s Mo Salah failed to score in the win at Leicester but assisted all three of the Reds’ goals, two of which came off the foot of young midfielder Curtis Jones. The third Liverpool goal was a wonder goal off a free kick by Trent Alexander-Arnold. The redeployment of Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder in attack and the re-emergence of Jones makes Liverpool’s midfield problems look far less dire.

Manchester United stayed above Liverpool in the table with a 2-0 win at Wolves as Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho made rare appearances on the scoresheet for the Red Devils.

Meanwhile Newcastle’s 2-2 draw with Leeds put the club into the thick of a three-way fight for the two remaining Champions League places. Despite two penalty kick goals by Callum Wilson, the Magpies were forced to share the points with a determined Leeds squad when Rasmus Kristensen scored the equalizer in the 79th minute to secure a critical point in Leeds’s relegation fight. The Whites are one point below currently safe Everton with a recoverable deficit in goal differential. More importantly, Leeds looked rejuvenated under Allardyce while Leicester looked to be going through the final motions of a lost season in its loss to Liverpool.

Nottingham Forest is three points above Leeds in the survival struggle after a 2-2 draw with Chelsea. The second goal of the match by Forest’s brace by Taiwo Awoniyi knotted a contest in which Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling awoke from a season long slumber to notch a brace for the Blues.

West Ham is six points clear of the drop line but was unable to clinch its bid for survival when the Hammers fell 2-0 at Brentford. The victory for the Bees clinched their first top half finish in the topflight in 85 years.

Bournemouth is safe from relegation and thus will only be slightly bothered by a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. Eberechi Eze scored both of Palace’s goals to continue his resurgence under Manager Roy Hodgson. The young midfielder has scored six goals in eight matches under Hodgson and leads the Eagles with 10 goals for the season.

There’s been little response, excluding that which has been negative, to new managers at Southampton. Southampton’s fate was settled in a 2-0 loss to Fulham which mathematically ensured relegation for the Saints. The departure from Premier League competition rests almost solely on the club’s hierarchy which made baffling managerial choices in successively appointing the ill-fated Nathan Jones and the untested Ruben Selles after parting ways with veteran manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The relegation race - realistically down to Nottingham Forest, Everton, Leeds and Leicester - pauses until next weekend, but the European qualification races will be impacted by this Thursday’s match between Brighton and Newcastle at a raucous St. James Park. 

Premier League in Europe

Manchester City host Real Madrid on Wednesday in the decisive second leg of their Champions League Semifinal tie. The two clubs drew 1-1 in Madrid last week. Manchester City is seeking to advance to its second Champions League final and a chance to win the trophy for the first time. The Premier League club was bounced form the competition by this same Real Madrid club in the semifinals last year before the Spanish side went on to win their fourteenth European championship. Defending champion Real Madrid remains a dangerous opponent but Manchester City is in peak form as it rides a current unbeaten run of 22 matches across all competitions.

West Ham, meanwhile, has lost four of its last five matches in the Premier League but holds a one goal advantage in its Europa Conference League semifinal with AZ Alkmaar as the Hammers head to the Netherlands on Thursday for the second leg of their tie.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Premier League Preview: Match Week 36

Arsenal has run off two consecutive victories, the last over a formidable Newcastle side, since its potentially fatal loss to Manchester City. The Gunners can’t afford to drop any points down this stretch run as they chase the title, but the Londoners will face another difficult opponent when Brighton visits the Emirates on Sunday. The Seagulls sit seventh in the table despite having played 1-2 matches fewer than the clubs above them. Tottenham Hotspur are just two points above the Seagulls with Liverpool five points further up the table from Brighton’s current position. Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi has worked wonders since taking over after Graham Potter’s departure earlier this season while new stars such as Alexis Mac Allister and Kaoru Mitoma have helped take the Seagulls to new heights.

Manchester City has a game in hand as well as a point advantage over Arsenal in the battle for the Premier League title. The Citizens travel to Everton on Sunday in the midst of a tricky stretch, however, for Manager Pep Guardiola and his defending Premier League champions. The trip to Goodison Park is sandwiched between the two legs of Manchester City’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid while Everton will be scrapping for its Premier League survival in front of its home supporters. The Toffees are currently two points clear of the drop after a shock win over Brighton last weekend.

Leeds and Leicester both fell into the relegation zone with their losses last week and both clubs will have trouble digging out this weekend against clubs much farther up the table. Sam Allardyce makes his home debut as Leeds’s manager when the Whites host Newcastle on Saturday. Leeds has lost five of six to arrive at its current place in the bottom three. Newcastle is trying to assure a top four finish and Champions League qualification as the third place Magpies lead Manchester United and Liverpool by two points and three points, respectively.

Manchester United finds itself in an unexpected fight for Champions League qualification as the Red Devils, losers of their last two matches, host Wolverhampton Saturday. United Manager Eric ten Haag is in a curious spot. Having already won the Carabao Cup and looking towards an FA Cup final against Manchester City, his team could be on the brink of an outstanding season. A late season fall from the top four, however, could make this season a failure.

Liverpool has won six consecutive matches to mount an unlikely late season bid for Champions League football next season. the top four. The Reds are at Leicester Monday with full intent to advance their own cause and to heap further misery on the failing Foxes. Leicester and Manager Dean Smith wasted opportunities to grab more than a point in draws with fellow relegation battlers Leeds and Everton before falling hard at Fulham last weekend. A poor Leicester defense will be challenged by the reenergized Liverpool attack led by Mohamed Salah and friends. Salah scored his 30th goal of the season across all competitions in the Reds’ win over Brentford last weekend.

Sixth place Tottenham Hotspur and eighth place Aston Villa are separated by just three points as the two clubs battle with Brighton for Europa League and Europa Conference League berths for next year. Spurs are at Villa Park Saturday where Aston Villa will try to shake off two consecutive 1-0 defeats which put the brakes on their run up the Premier League table. Spurs have also been largely poor in recent weeks but were rescued by a Harry Kane goal at Crystal Palace last week to end a four-match winless run.

Crystal Palace is one of several clubs playing out their schedule with no fear of relegation and no hopes of Europe. The 12th place Eagles host 14th place Bournemouth in a match with little consequence for two clubs who have already banked a successful season of Premier League survival.

West Ham has all but clinched its own survival with a surprising victory over Manchester United last week. The Hammers can make it mathematically official this weekend with a win at Brentford.

Nottingham Forest is still at relegation risk despite winning two of its last three matches to move two points above the drop line. The Tricky Trees visit Stamford Bridge Saturday to face Chelsea which won for the first time under interim manager Frank Lampard last week. Forest Manager Steve Cooper and West Ham’s David Moyes are the only two managers of clubs in the bottom half of the table to have been in place all season. If both teams survive, it may say something about patience.

Ruben Selles is the third manager this season at Southampton. The reshuffled managerial cards have produced few results for the Saints who sit in the league cellar. The Saints will be officially relegated with anything less than a win against visiting Fulham on Saturday.

Premier League in Europe

Manchester City drew 1-1 with Champions League semifinal opponent Real Madrid on Tuesday. Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne displayed individual brilliance when they traded long range strikes to throw the tie into a do or die second leg in England next week. Manchester City controlled possession and had the better of opportunities in the first half before Vinicius struck against the run of play with a 36th minute rocket. A confident Real Madrid side then controlled play until De Bruyne found the net in the 57th minute with a long-range effort comparable to Vinicius’s first half goal. De Bruyne became the first player in Champions League history to score an away goal in two separate knockout matches at the home of Real Madrid while the victory extended Manchester City’s unbeaten run in all competitions to 21 matches. The Citizens will be trying to advance to their second Champions League final when they host the decisive second leg next Wednesday.

West Ham scored twice in the second half of a 2-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar in their Europa Conference League semifinal at London Stadium. A howler by West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola had provided the Dutch side with a first half advantage before goals by Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio brought the Hammers back to give them a slender advantage heading into Thursday’s second leg in the Netherlands. Benrahma’s goal came by way of penalty after current AZ Alkmaar and former Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan was assessed for punching the Hammers’ Jarrod Bowen in the face during a goalmouth challenge. Antonio’s 75th minute winner puts the Hammers in prime position to advance to a European final in a season where domestic relegation was often of concern.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 35: Everton, Nottingham Forest Shake Up Relegation Race; Arsenal Wins At Newcastle; Manchester City Spoils Big Sam’s Return; Streaking Liverpool Swats Bees; United Loses at Villa; Chelsea Wins First For Lampard; Kane Leads Spurs Over Eagles; Wolves Rock Villa

While Arsenal and Manchester City held serve in the race at the top, it was the relegation race at the bottom of the table which provided much of the drama in this latest round of the Premier League season. There is also an unexpected race for Champions League qualification while the other European places remain very much in play as the season enters its final weeks.

Everton shocked Brighton with a 5-1 victory at the home of the Seagulls. The Toffees won an away match for only the second time this season to vault Everton out of the bottom three in the race for Premier League survival. Everton snapped a seven-match winless run by swarming the Seagulls from the outset. Abdoulaye Doucoure scored less than a minute into the match and added his second goal by halftime.

Everton would sprint to a four-goal advantage before Brighton would break through for the Seagulls’ lone tally in the 79th minute. Dwight McNeil’s second goal of the match, six minutes into second half stoppage time, put an exclamation point on the Toffees’ victory. Everton’s five goal performance was a high-water mark for its season, surpassing a three-goal effort against Crystal Palace back in October. The timing of the goal outburst could not have been better as the Toffees joined Nottingham Forest, winners over Southampton, in advancing out of the bottom three while losing efforts from Leicester and Leeds landed those clubs in the Premier League relegation zone. Brighton was an unlikely victim for Everton after the Seagulls had humiliated Wolves with a 6-0 thrashing and then defeated Manchester United 1-0 in their last two matches. Following the defeat on Monday, seventh place Brighton is two points behind Spurs and a point ahead of Aston Villa with two matches in hand versus both clubs. Those matches in hand are only helpful though if the Seagulls can deliver results from them, a task miserably failed against the Toffees.

Brighton also has two matches in hand versus fifth place Liverpool, but the gap is now seven points between those clubs after Liverpool won its sixth consecutive match in a 1-0 win over Brentford. Mohamed Salah’s 13th minute goal, his 100th in a Liverpool shirt at Anfield, keeps the Reds in the hunt for an improbable Champions League berth after a highly disappointing start to this season. Liverpool moved within a point of fourth place Manchester United though the Red Devils have a match in hand. The unlikely late season charge by Liverpool combined with some recent stumbles by the Manchester club has created an unexpected Champions League qualification chase.

Manchester United has won just five of its last ten, losing its last two matches without scoring a goal. The Red Devils lost 1-0 on Sunday to West Ham when David De Gea misplayed a lightly struck attempt by Said Benrahma to create the winning goal for the Hammers which puts them seven points clear of the drop line. While relegation remains a mathematical possibility for West Ham, Sunday’s result all but guarantees the Hammers will avoid relegation in what has been a more difficult than expected season for their hand wringing supporters. Ironically, the Hammers not only should now beat the drop but could also win a Europa Conference League title.

Manchester United, meanwhile, needs to find the goals to fight off the late season challenge by Liverpool in the top four chase. The Red Devils have failed to score in two consecutive losses as the lack of a quality striker, less critical when Marcus Rashford was scoring goals for fun earlier in the season, now looms large for Manager Eric ten Hag’s club.

Arsenal, which has already clinched Champions League football, kept its Premier League title hopes alive with an impressive 2-0 win Sunday at Newcastle over the third place Magpies. The victory keeps the Gunners one point behind Manchester City though the Citizens have played one fewer match. Martin Odegaard’s 15th goal of the season gave Arsenal the lead in the 14th minute after Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy had earlier hit the post in an opportunity filled opening minutes of the match. Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale would deny numerous other Newcastle chances until the Gunners added an insurance goal in the 71st minute when Newcastle’s Fabian Schar deflected a cross by Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli into the Magpies net.

Manchester City had already taken care of business the day before in a 2-1 win over Leeds, spoiling Sam Allardyce’s debut as Leeds manager despite an improved showing from the Whites. Ilkay Gundogan scored two first half goals and then was at the center of second half controversy when Erling Haaland, City’s regular penalty taker, deferred to Gundogan for the taking of a penalty kick which would have given the German a hat trick on the night. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola was irate with Haaland’s gesture, more so when Gundogan missed, and even more so when Leeds scored shortly thereafter. The intended nice gesture by Haaland almost endangered Manchester City tile chase. All ended well for the Citizens, however, when Leeds was unable to find a tying goal and City notched another three points.

Leeds, meanwhile, fell into the relegation zone with a fifth defeat in a six-match winless run, the only point during that stretch resulting from a 1-1 draw with now fellow relegation zone occupant Leicester. The Foxes put on a woeful display in a 5-3 loss at Fulham. The final score was flattering for a Leicester side which twice was down by four goals in a match where Fulham was the hungrier club despite Leicester’s dire relegation risk. The Foxes’ defense had been improved in recent weeks but once again looked like the shambles which has allowed more goals than all but three Premier League teams this season. Leicester also got little  help from its star players. Jamie Vardy missed a penalty. James Maddison did little but gesture in frustration at his flailing teammates. Youri Tielemans contributed nothing before being pulled in the 60th minute. The Cottagers, meanwhile, looked far more interested in preserving a top half finish than the Foxes did in surviving in the league. Willian and Tom Cairney both posted braces against the feeble Foxes as Fulham posted its 14th victory of the season, tying for the club’s  Premier League high.

Nottingham Forest won for the second time in three matches as a 4-3 win over Southampton uprooted the Tricky Trees from the drop zone. Nothing was easy for the Trees, however, who three times went ahead by two goals with the Saints responding on each occasion to close the gap. Forest persevered, however, in front of their roaring home supporters at the City Gound where the home side has captured the last twelve points earned in its struggle for survival. Seven of Nottingham Forest’s eight wins this season have come at the City Ground. Southampton would now seem all but doomed with an eight-point gap to close on 18th place and a ticket for next year’s Premier League.

Aston Villa has long been safe from the relegation feared when Manager Steven Gerrard was sacked back in October. The club’s hopes of a European berth under Manager Unai Emery, however, were damaged by a 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton on Saturday. It was the second consecutive defeat where Villa was unable to score, and Emery and the boys are now a point behind Brighton for the Europa Conference League slot and  three points south of sixth place Tottenham Hotspur and a possible Europa League berth. Wolverhampton is further down the table but its win over Aston Villa erased the unpleasant memory of a blowout loss to Brighton the week before and ensured safety for a Wolves side which was in the league’s basement and facing relegation on Christmas Day. The appointment of Manager Julen Lopetegui at Wolverhampton has proven one of several managerial changes which paid off in the Premier Leage this season. Roberto De Zerbi, Gary O’Neil, Unai Emery and Roy Hodgson are others who took over clubs at different points this season and have enjoyed success.

Frank Lampard hadn’t experienced any success at Chelsea this season, but he got his first win after six losing efforts with a 3-1 defeat of Bournemouth Saturday. Chelsea’s first win since March 11th mathematically ensured that Chelsea is safe to try again in the league next season. Connor Gallagher, Benoit Badiashile, and Jao Felix scored for a Chelsea side which had scored just twice in its previous nine matches across all competitions.

Harry Kane has no problem consistently finding the net. The Tottenham Hotspur legend broke a tie with Wayne Rooney by scoring his 209th goal in a 1-0 Spurs win over Crystal Palace and now trails only Allen Shearer in Premier League career goals scored. Kane now has 26 league goals this season, trailing only Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot. Unpredictable Spurs ended a four-match winless run to reassert themselves in the chase for European places. Tottenham Hotspur is now two points ahead of Brighton for a Europa League berth, but the Seagulls still have two matches in hand. Aston Villa, three points back currently, could still reverse their recent fortunes and knock Spurs out of Europe altogether.  

Premier League in Europe

Only two Premier League teams remain alive in European Cup competition. Manchester City, having knocked Bayern Munich out in the last round of the Champions League, now faces 14-time European Champion Real Madrid in the semifinals with the clubs playing the first leg Tuesday in Madrid. The Citizens were agonizingly eliminated at this same stage of the competition by Real Madrid last season when Karim Benzema’s late penalty kick in the second leg at the Etihad saw Los Blancos advance on aggregate in their march to last year’s championship. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola continues to search for his first Champions league title without Lionel Messi on his squad. Current star Erling Haaland could provide the breakthrough, but the Citizens must first dethrone Real Madrid. Either AC Milan or Inter Milan will await in the final. A far less glamorous semifinal featuring a Premier League squad will take place on Thursday when West Ham hosts AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of their Europa Conference League tie. The Hammers are still not mathematically safe from relegation in the Premier League. AZ Alkmaar is fourth in the Dutch Eredivisie. While West Ham has struggled in their domestic league, the Hammers are undefeated in their last twelve European matches and can lock in a Europa League berth if they can advance past AZ Alkmaar and go on to win the Conference League title.  

Friday, May 5, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 35

Arsenal’s fading title hopes face a major challenge on Saturday when the Gunners visit third place Newcastle. Arsenal trails Manchester City by a point and the Citizens have a match in hand. A loss to Newcastle could prove fatal for the Gunners as Manchester City shows no signs of letting up, having won nine consecutive league matches. Arsenal rebounded from its recent loss to City by beating up on defenseless Chelsea at the Emirates on Tuesday to end a four-match winless run. Newcastle, meanwhile, is trying to put the finishing touches on a top four season. A two-point lead on Manchester United is not as critical as the six-point advantage the Magpies currently hold on a late charging Liverpool club. Newcastle should present a formidable threat for the Gunners at St. James Park where the Magpies have lost just once this season.

Manchester City is home to Leeds where Sam Allardyce will make his debut as manager for the survival threatened Whites. Allardyce’s task will be daunting as Manchester City knows it can afford no letup in its race with Arsenal despite next week’s looming Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid. Limiting the damage at the Etihad could be important for Leeds, however, as the tight relegation race could well come down to goal differential tiebreakers.

Manchester United’s grip on its top four position looks just a little less assured after its defeat at Brighton on Thursday. The Red Devils’ lead on streaking Liverpool is four points with a match in hand as United heads to West Ham this weekend. The Hammers are trying to swim clear of the relegation scramble as they currently sit four points above the drop line.

Liverpool, at home to Brentford this weekend, is making an unexpected late season run as the Reds try to crash the top four party. Liverpool has won five consecutive matches to close in on Manchester United in a late bid for Champions League qualification.

Not far behind Liverpool is Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls flew by Tottenham Hotspur in the table to land in sixth position in the table after the dramatic win over Manchester United Thursday. Brighton will be home to a desperate Everton side on Monday. The Toffees are next to bottom in the table as they face the prospect of their first ever relegation from the Premier League.

Nottingham Forest is one of three clubs just a point above Everton in the table. Forest is currently the odd man out in the congested survival race as Leicester and Leeds are presently safe on goal differential. Manager Steve Cooper’s side should have a golden opportunity to improve its position when the Tricky Trees host cellar dwelling Southhampton on Monday. The Saints are six points south of the three clubs in the current thirty-point club.

Leicester has been able to rise out of the relegation zone, albeit only on goal differential, by capturing five of nine available points in a three-match unbeaten run. The Foxes trot off to London on Monday to face Fulham. The 10th place Cottagers have lost three consecutive matches, all to clubs above them in the table.

Crystal Palace is five points back of Fulham. A top half finish by either the Eagles or Cottagers would not have been a popular bet before the season. The Eagles have soared up the table after the appointment of Manager Roy Hodgson. Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, has fallen out of the top four since the departure of Manager Antonio Conte. The north London side has lost three out of four matches to drop to seventh in the table and raise concern that there will be no European football next season for whoever the new manager is. Interim Manager Ryan Mason will try to get the club back on track Saturday when Spurs host a London derby versus Palace.

Aston Villa is level on points with Spurs, with a razor thin deficiency in goal differential, as the clubs battle for Europa League and Europa Conference League qualification. Manager Unai Emery takes his Villa squad to Wolverhampton Sunday as he tries to lead the Birmingham club back into European competition for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

Chelsea is shockingly closer to relegation than European competition. The Blues visit Bournemouth Saturday for their latest attempt to win a game under beleaguered manager Frank Lampard. Chelsea has lost all six matches, scoring just two goals, since Lampard took charge. A seventh consecutive loss would equal a club record. Bournemouth, on the other hand, is on a remarkable run of success under Manager Gary O’ Neil. The Cherries were in the relegation zone as recently as April 4th but are now level on points with Chelsea after winning five of their last six matches.  

Premier League Midweek Results

Erling Haaland established a new single season Premier League goal scoring record with his 35th league goal of the season in Manchester City’s 3-0 win over West Ham. Haaland surpassed Andy Cole and Alan Shearer, each of whom had scored 34 goals in a longer 42 match season. Haaland’s teammates rewarded him with a guard of honor following a match which marked the Citizens’ ninth straight victory in the league and pushed Manager Pep Guardiola’s squad to the top of the Premier League table, one point above Arsenal.

A Mohamed Salah penalty kick, his 18th goal of the season, gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Fulham. The victory at Anfield was a fifth straight win for Liverpool as it continued a late season surge which has seen the Reds rise to fifth in the table.

Brighton is only four points behind Liverpool, with two matches in hand, after the Seagulls defeated Manchester United 1-0 on Thursday. Alexis Mac Allister’s penalty kick in the final seconds of the match delivered revenge for a Brighton side which lost its FA Cup semifinal match with Manchester United less than two weeks ago in a penalty shootout. Luke Shaw inexplicably committed the handball leading to Mac Allister’s try as the Red Devils lost their seventh away match of the season.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 34: Arsenal Stay Top By Beating Chelsea; Manchester City Wins At Fulham; Manchester United Douses Villa Hopes; Liverpool Spoils Spurs Comeback; Flock of Seagulls Score Versus Wolves; Sam Allardyce Returns To Premier League After Cherries Roll Past Leaky Leeds; Leicester and Everton Decide Nothing In Monday Draw

Arsenal postponed the seeming inevitable by restoring its fragile two-point lead in the table with a 3-1 win over flailing Chelsea. The Gunners had their way with a packed-in Chelsea defense that inexplicably parted like the Red Sea in the first half. An unmarked Martin Odegaard scored twice for Arsenal before Gabriel Jesus capped a miserable first half for Chelsea with a far too easy put back as Chelsea defenders collided in front of their net. Jesus’s goal was his 10th of the season as he joined three other Arsenal players who have double digit goal totals for the Gunners this season. The match risked getting out of hand before Chelsea was able to stop the bleeding with an improved second half effort. Noni Madueke even scored a consolation goal for the Blues, only the second goal scored by Chelsea during Manager Frank Lampard’s six match winless run.

Manchester City, 2-1 winners at Fulham on Sunday, play again on Wednesday with a chance to move ahead of Arsenal. A third minute penalty kick against the Cottagers by Erling Haaland was his 50th goal of the season across all competitions and his 34th Premier League goal, tying the Norwegian striker with Alan Shearer and Andy Cole for the most goals in a Premier League season. Julian Alvarez was fouled to set up Haaland’s kick and the Argentine forward would later score City’s second goal in the 36th minute after Fulham had leveled. Manchester City extended its unbeaten run across all competitions to 18 matches and notched an eighth consecutive league win as it chases Arsenal for the title.

Sam Allardyce returns to the Premier League for yet another fireman assignment after Leeds sacked Manager Javi Gracia to bring in the survival specialist. Director of Football Victor Orta was also dismissed after Leeds’s 4-1 loss to Bournemouth. Allardyce’s perceived strength is saving poor squads from relegation. Big Sam has performed magic in saving clubs such as Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers and Crystal Palace from the drop. He was unsuccessful, however, in managing the same for relegated West Brom two years ago and has been out of work since. Allardyce has a chance to recapture the magic if he can keep Leeds up with just four matches remaining.

The club had been spiraling out of control under Gracia, setting a new Premier League record for goals conceded in a single month as four more shots, two by the Cherries’ Jefferson Lerma, found the net against the Whites in the loss to a Bournemouth side which has won five of its last six matches to leave the relegation discussion. The 23 April goals allowed by Leeds broke the previous Premier League mark of 20 set by Leeds in February of 2022. Remarkably, the Whites are currently safe on goal differential despite conceding a league high 67 goals in their 34 matches. Leeds is currently on 30 points along with Leicester and Nottingham Forest among three squads spanning slots 16 through 18 in the table.

Nottingham Forest is currently odd man out as they sit in the relegation zone on goal differential after a 2-1 defeat at Brentford Saturday. Leicester’s 2-2 Monday draw with Everton moved the Foxes into the three-way tie on points where they have a far superior goal differential to either Leeds or Nottingham Forest. Everton also remains in the survival fight, just one point shy of the 30-point club, after Leicester’s James Maddison missed what should have been a winning penalty kick.

Southampton is losing touch with the pack after a 3-1 loss to Newcastle. The south coast club’s 24 points to date are six points south of the relegation line after losing for the seventh time in a current nine match winless run. Newcastle’s Callum Wilson scored twice as a second half substitute for the Magpies who maintained a nine-point advantage over fifth place Liverpool in the quest to clinch a Champions League berth for next season.

Liverpool moved past Tottenham Hotspur in the table with a dramatic 4-3 win over Spurs at Anfield. The Reds sprinted to a 3-0 lead by the 15-minute mark as some of the Spurs away supporters began to file out of the stadium. The north London side showed heart, however, in fighting all the way back to tie the match in the third minute of final stoppage time on Richarlison’s first goal of the Premier League season. Spurs being Spurs, however, the winner was handed to Liverpool when Spurs’ Lucas Moura rolled the ball to Liverpool’s Diogo Jota in the Tottenham Hotspur end. Jota accepted the gift and found the net for the winner just one minute after Richarlison’s equalizer. A third loss in a four-match winless run in the league has transformed Spurs’ season from fighting for a Champions League berth to potentially missing out on European play next season entirely. The star-crossed club has allowed 15 goals in those past four matches. Liverpool narrowly averted what would have been an emotionally destructive collapse and accepted Spurs generosity for the Reds’ fourth consecutive win. The referee and VA official were also kind to Liverpool as winning goal scorer Jota had earlier received no more than a yellow card for a high kick that bloodied the head of Spurs midfielder Oliver Skipp.

Manchester United ended Aston Villa’s 10 match unbeaten run as Villa failed to score a goal for the first time under Manager Unai Emery in a 1-0 Red Devil win at Old Trafford. A 39th minute goal by Bruno Fernandes grabbed the three points and helped solidify Manchester United’s top four position and Champions League qualification. The Red Devils are seven points ahead of Liverpool while having played one fewer match than their historic rivals. Aston Villa, meanwhile, finds itself now nine points behind Manchester United, effectively ending any slim hope of a top four finish. Instead, Aston Villa sits seventh and in a battle for Europa League and Europa Conference League berths.

Brighton is close on Aston Villa’s heels after a 6-0 smashing of Wolves. Deniz Undav, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck all posted braces for the Seagulls as Brighton registered its most lopsided win as a topflight club. Brighton has three matches in hand versus Ason Villa and Tottenham Hotspur and two matches in hand versus fifth place Liverpool in the battle between the four clubs for three European places. The Seagulls currently trail Villa and Spurs by two points and Liverpool by four points in the table.

Another seven-goal extravaganza unfolded at Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace defeated West Ham 4-3. Crystal Palace Manager Roy Hodgson now has four wins and a draw in his six matches in charge of the Eagles as his appointment has proved a masterstroke by club chairman Steve Parish. Eberechi Eze’s 66th minute penalty proved the winner for Crystal Palace as the young midfielder has now scored four times since the return of the 75-year-old Hodgson to south London. Saturday’s victory puts the Eagles at 40 points, a point total Hodgson himself had targeted as the requirement to Premier League survival. West Ham, meanwhile, still has work to do to ensure its continued Premier League participation after a second consecutive defeat leaves the Hammers four points clear of the drop line with five matches remaining.

Midweek Premier League Matches

Three rescheduled matches from match week 28 take place Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Manchester City will try to take another step towards the title when the Citizens host West Ham on Wednesday. A victory at the Etihad would move Manchester City ahead of Arsenal in the title chase despite having played one fewer match. The Hammers are trying to claw free of the relegation fight as Manager David Moyes’ men are just four points clear of the drop entering Wednesday’s match. Liverpool is home for a second consecutive match on Wednesday when Fulham comes to Anfield. Four straight victories, the latest being Sunday’s seven goal home thriller with Spurs, have lifted the Reds into fifth place. Brighton currently sits outside the European places as the Seagulls face a home match versus Manchester United on Thursday. In Brighton’s favor, however, is the fact that the Seagulls have played three fewer matches than Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, the two clubs currently two points above the eighth place Seagulls in the table.