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.

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