Liverpool may have lifted the Premier League Cup on Wednesday night, but there is still plenty at stake at both ends of the table during the final week of the season, writes OLUWAMAYOMIKUN OREKOYA.
Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United are all fighting for the final two Champions League places behind Liverpool and Manchester City.
Tottenham and Wolves are both contesting sixth place and guaranteed qualification to the Europa League, although finishing in seventh could still prove enough.
At the other end, West Ham are not yet mathematically safe going to the final weekend, while Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth will all battle it out for survival on the final day.
Norwich are already relegated following last weekend’s home defeat to West Ham.
In the battle for the UEFA Champions League, Frank Lampard has every faith his players to get their bid over the line despite being on the wrong side of the eight-goal thriller at Anfield in that 5-3 defeat to Liverpool.
Loss at the newly-crowned Premier League champions meant Lampard’s side, are now fourth on the log with a game left and would need at least one point to guarantee a top-four finish.
That must now be achieved at home to Europa League-chasing Wolves on Sunday, but the former England midfielder does not believe they should allow themselves to be daunted by the challenge.
“I have seen a lot in the last two games, particularly with Manchester United (the FA Cup semi-final win) and then with Liverpool, of what we are about,” he said.
“There has been spirit and character in those two performances and we have to carry it on for one more game in the league.
“Since restart there was a feeling it could go this far. I felt we maybe could get over the line before the (Liverpool) game because we played so well against Manchester United.
“What is absolutely important is the players focus on themselves because it is in our own hands, and that is the job I’ll do because we can’t affect what is going on elsewhere.
“We have to try to get over the line. We have character in the group, we have quality and we have a good opponent coming and it is on us now.”
Elsewhere, Leicester are currently in fifth place and will host fellow Champion League final spot rivals Manchester United in another crucial game tomorrow.
That match looks set to be a winner-takes-all. United’s 1-1 all draw with West Ham on Wednesday means The Foxes will have to beat them on the final day.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is delighted to be heading into the season finale at top-four rivals Leicester with a “fantastic opportunity” to qualify for the Champions League.
Solskjaer’s side moved into the top-four for the first time since mid-September thanks to a draw that means United will qualify for the Champions League if they avoid defeat at the Kings Power Stadium.
“We have given ourselves a fantastic opportunity and a great starting point for Sunday.” Solskjaer said after United’s draw with West Ham.
“When we started after the lockdown, we had to go for it. We really had to go for it – we had to go for goal difference, we had to go for points.
“The effort has been fantastic and the results have been fantastic.” But Man United would have to be more than fantastic to avoid defeat against the Brendan Rogers’ side in a game that have the Nigerian spirit wrapped all around it.
While Manchester United has Odion Ighalo in their Red corner, Leicester City would be buoyed with the duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho in their blue corner.
In the lower rung of the relegation blues, Aston Villa will travel to West Ham tomorrow knowing they are safe as long as they can match Watford’s result — unless both teams lose and Bournemouth win.
Dean Smith’s side have found some form at a crucial moment and are unbeaten in three as they try to save themselves.
Smith admitted Aston Villa must target victory in their final match against West Ham to ensure Premier League survival after climbing out of the relegation zone for the first time since the end of February by beating Arsenal on Tuesday.
A brilliant goal from Mahmoud Trezeguet in the first half and a resolute defensive performance from the hosts sealed the win against Mikel Arteta’s side, who were heavily changed from the FA Cup semi-final triumph against Manchester City at the weekend.
“We needed this,” said Smith. “We’ve got to go and do the same against West Ham. Now we’ve got the season in our own hands and that’s all you can ask for.”
Watford make the short trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal knowing that if Villa win they must better their result by two or more goals, though if Villa draw a Watford win keeps them up, and they can afford a draw if Villa lose.
The Hornet’s goalkeeper Ben Foster admits Watford confidence is ‘crazy low’ after slipping into the drop zone after they were beaten 4-0 at home by Manchester City last weekend.
“I don’t think we helped ourselves,” said Foster, the only Watford player to emerge with credit. “I don’t think we did enough to do anything but what the result suggest.
Bournemouth go to Everton knowing they have to win to have any chance of staying up, and even then it will only work out for Eddie Howe’s side if both Villa and Watford lose.
West Ham are not yet mathematically safe going into Wednesday’s game against Manchester United, though their vastly superior goal difference should ensure they have little to worry about.
They then host Villa. If the points are level, goal difference comes into play, and if that too is level it comes down to goals scored.
As it stands, Villa have scored 40, Bournemouth 37 and Watford 34. If necessary, it could then go to head-to-head record, or beyond that, the unlikely scenario of a play-off behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, there would also be fierce battle for tickets for the Europa League since the fifth-place team in the final log on the EPL qualifies for the second tier European Cup, as do the FA Cup and League Cup winners. (The Nation)