By Nilesh Patel
- Five crucial questions as we see off the 2016/17 Premier League season
- Full list of fixtures and predictions
PREMIER LEAGUE – In the final list of fixtures for the season there are still some potential upsets and some triumphs to be seen, with Champions League places still up for grabs.
Is Guardiola’s reputation on the line?
When Pep Guardiola first breached English shores, from an almost all-conquering Bayern Munich, everything looked simple. Within his first eight games, the Spanish coach was top of the Premier League, with just one loss to his name, yet after 30 games being played Manchester City had dropped to fourth – 11 points behind Chelsea.
With expectations from his triumphs in other leagues and from his first ten games in the top flight of English football, Guardiola has certainly disappointed. A season with no silverware and only a top four finish to fight for, the City fans definitely didn’t expect this to be it when their new manager was revealed last season.
However, with the transition period the club has been in since Manuel Pellegrini‘s departure, a Champions League finish may be a slight sign of progression with consideration to the improvements other clubs around Man City have had.
On Sunday, City will play Watford in the final game of their season. A win will certify Champions League football and a top 3 place, however a loss could at worse could mean Guardiola’s men drop to fifth.
Regardless of their finish, drastic changes will take place at the Etihad this summer. With City stalwart, Pablo Zabaleta, leaving the club and Claudio Bravo looking unconvincing, Guardiola will look to reinforce his squad at the back and in between the goalposts. To add to an already youthful squad, with the likes of: Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane.
Has it ever been this simple for Liverpool to secure top-four?
Liverpool face Middlesbrough at home on Sunday, with three points securing their place in next year’s Champions League. On paper, this looks very much in Jurgen Klopp‘s favour. However, if this season has told us anything it’s that what looks simple for the Reds, usually isn’t simple.
Nobody can argue against Liverpool’s exceptional record against the top-six, however they have let themselves down with their results against the teams at the bottom end of the table. Klopp’s men have losses to their name against the likes of Burnley, Hull and Swansea.
In fairness, Liverpool have had their season spoiled through injuries to key players at key times. Heading into the final game, they’re still without Sadio Mane and their captain Jordan Henderson but will have the confidence of their 4-0 thrashing against West Ham, and a sharp-looking Daniel Sturridge, behind them
With Middlesbrough’s fate already decided, they have nothing to fight for – other than their Premier League pride – Liverpool are firm favourites for this game. Especially when you see the form of the last five games for both teams.
Could Everton spoil Wenger’s top four hopes?
The team that faces the toughest challenge of making the top-four is Arsenal. They face an Everton side that has had a good season, and a striker in Romelu Lukaku who is looking the Golden Boot and for Champions League outfit for next season.
Lukaku’s situation is one which Arsene Wenger may experience is they fail to get Champions League football next season. With rumours of their star players, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, leaving in the summer; the hierarchy at the Emirates will likely have to splash the cash on their star-men in the fear of not being able to attract the top European players. Especially with London rivals: Chelsea and Tottenham looking much better destinations.
There is no arguing Sanchez’s importance to this squad. On his own, the Chilean has accounted for 33 goals this season – a tally which takes him in the top 10 of Premier League records. Sanchez is just one goal of top-scorer Lukaku with 23 goals this season.
However, with Lukaku’s intentions clear, we may see a more fierce and resolute Everton on the final day which may spoil Alexis’ and Arsenal’s season.
Regardless, the Gunners require slip-ups for Man City or Liverpool to have any chance of making the top-four. An FA Cup final may be the only saving grace for their season.
Will there be a perfect send off for John Terry?
With two wins this week, the title was decided and rightly so to Chelsea. Antonio Conte and his men have stormed the league, with a current 10 point gap on their rivals.
The Blues will lift the trophy at their home stadium after Sunday’s game against Sunderland, which will incidentally be their captains last game for the club.
Club captain John Terry announced his decision to leave the club last month, with no future club or retiring been announced. Conte allowed him to feature in their mid-week fixture against Watford, where he scored probably his last goal for the London club.
Conte may well play Terry on the final game of the season, which would be his 492nd Premier League appearance for Chelsea, in which he has scored 41 goals and won 310 games.
What other games are on in the Premier League?
The full list of fixtures, with predictions, include:
- Arsenal 2 – 2 Everton
- Burnley 0 – 1 West Ham
- Chelsea 3 – 0 Sunderland
- Hull City 0 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
- Leicester City 3 – 2 Bournemouth
- Liverpool 2 – 0 Middlesbrough
- Manchester United 1 – 1 Crystal Palace
- Southampton 1 – 2 Stoke City
- Swansea City 0 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
- Watford 1 – 3 Manchester City
All of this week’s games will take place on Sunday, at 3:00pm.
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