By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from match-week 28/29 of the Premier League season
- Full weekend results
The Premier League left for the International break with a bang this week, and here are five lessons we learned from match-week 28/29.
Manchester United are favourites to finish in the top four
If you are a Manchester United fan then you should be a happy person right now. The Red Devils were one of the biggest winners of the weekend and come out of it as the favourites to finish inside the top four.
United condemned more misery on a manager-less Middlesbrough with a 3-1 win at the Riverside stadium. Marouane Fellaini give his side the lead with a back post header on the half hour mark. Jesse Lingard’s superb strike doubled the lead after the break before Rudy Gestede pounced on Chris Smalling’s mistake to give Boro hope of a comeback. However Antonio Valencia added a third in stoppage time to secure the win for Jose Mourinho’s men.
The result means that the Red Devils move into fifth position ahead of Arsenal. The Gunners disappointing spell continued as they were outplayed in a 3-1 defeat to West Brom at the Hawthorns. Cries for Manager Arsene Wenger to leave were present once again with some fans holding banners voicing their displeasure. The Frenchman said post match that he will announce his future ‘very soon’, but for now it looks like Arsenal are set to miss out on a top four finish for the first time under Wenger. This was their fourth defeat in five Premier League games and they trail fourth placed Liverpool by six points with two games in hand.
Liverpool themselves came out with a point against Manchester City. In a thrilling and controversial affair at the Etihad stadium, Sergio Aguero cancelled out James Milner’s penalty in a 1-1 draw that will not satisfy either manager. Liverpool’s gap to Manchester United has been cut to just four points with the Red Devils having two games in hand.
Those key games and the fact that united are the most in form side of the three means that Mourinho’s side are favourites to finish in the top four. They may have some frustrating draws under their belt, but United do not lose often and that could be a deciding factor in the race for Champions League qualification.
Chelsea are well equipped for a potentially ugly climax to the season.
One of the five questions heading into the weekend was whether Chelsea will stumble as they move closer to the title? Whilst they were tested by a resilient Stoke City side, the Blues ultimately secured another win and three points that could potentially be crucial come the end of the season.
Willian’s free kick gave Chelsea the lead after 13 minutes, but they were pegged back before the break when Jon Walters converted from the penalty spot after being pushed by Gary Cahill. The Chelsea defender went from zero to hero however as he swept home after Stoke failed to clear a Cesc Fabregas corner.
It was not the best performance from the league leaders who found their star striker Diego Costa often being distracted by a match-long battle with the Stoke defence. However, even without the Spaniard on form and Eden Hazard missing the match, Antonio Conte’s side took one step closer to the Premier League title. They can win ugly and that will be huge as the season draws to a close.
It looks like Spurs will be their nearest challengers. Despite Harry Kane being ruled out with an ankle injury, Tottenham squeezed past Southampton 2-1 to remain in second place. It is unlikely that Mauricio Pochettino’s side will catch their London rivals, but if the Blues slip up in a dramatic way then Spurs look the best placed to take advantage.
The relegation picture looks clearer
It was not the best of weekends for the bottom three side sin the Premier League as neither were able to gain any ground on the clubs above them.
Bottom club Sunderland could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Burnley. It is a disappointing result for the Black Cats who may have been expecting to get a result against a Burnley side who have a poor away record. They remain bottom, seven points from safety, it does not look good for David Moyes’ side.
Middlesbrough’s poor run continued with a 3-1 loss against Manchester United. The recent sacking of their manager, combined with another loss that leaves them in the relegation zone means that there is plenty of unrest at the club. It looks unlikely that they will turn it around too with their lack of attacking intent being the main factor in their downfall.
Hull were soundly beaten 4-0 by Everton at Goodison Park. The Tigers still have a chance of surviving as this was a fixture they were not expected to win, but a crushing defeat such as this will not do any favours to their confidence.
Just above the drop zone are Swansea. The Welsh side have gone off the boil lately after picking up form under Paul Clement. They lost 2-0 away at Bournemouth on Saturday, and as a result sit 17th in the table. The Cherries on the other hand may have saved themselves with a big win here.
Crystal Palace and Leicester also secured crucial wins to move themselves further away from the relegation zone. It looks like it may be a four team battle, but as we know, anything can happen.
Lukaku will win the Golden Boot.
Romelu Lukaku has put many clubs on high alert by rejecting a contract extension at Everton, signalling his intent to leave the club. The Belgian will be on the radar of many top clubs around Europe, especially given his goal-scoring form this season.
Despite the rumours about his future, Lukaku bagged another two goals against Hull as his side breezed to a 4-0 win. His double has taken his season tally to 21, and with nine games to go he has plenty of time to add to that total.
Lukaku is now a heavy favourite to win the Golden boot, especially with Kane’s injury keeping him out of a number of weeks. The distinction of being the Premier League’s top scorer for the season is very well in the hands of the 23-year-old
We will miss the Premier League during the International break
The season may not be the most exciting of all time, but there is nothing like watching a campaign unfold week on week, and seeing the developments throughout the season.
International breaks can often be a downer and take away from the excitement that has been building. With the cup taking focus last week, it was nice to get back into Premier League action this week, and it is being taken away from us again.
Of course Internationals bring a different type of excitement and are interesting in their own way, but I know for sure that I will be missing domestic action over the next two weeks.
Full Premier League results
West Brom 3-1 Arsenal
Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford
Everton 4-0 Hull
Stoke 1-2 Chelsea
Sunderland 0-0 Burnley
West Ham 2-3 Leicester
Bournemouth 2-0 Swansea
Middlesbrough 1-3 Man United
Tottenham 2-1 Southampton
Man City 1-1 Liverpool
The Premier League returns on Saturday 1st of April. Don’t be a fool and miss the action!
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