Don’t look now but with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, 5th place Arsenal is just four points behind 4th place Tottenham (with a game in hand) and five points behind 3rd place Chelsea. So, do the Gunners have what it takes to qualify for the Champions League?
A quick look at the fixture list shows it’s there for the taking.
Having been knocked out of European and domestic cups, Arsenal is afforded the trophy-less luxury of being able to focus on their nine remaining Premier League matches. Of those matches, Arsene Wenger’s side faces one Top 5 club (Manchester United at the Emirates) and the three clubs currently facing relegation (Wigan, Reading and QPR). Sweetening the deal even more is that the Gunners’ remaining home matches are winnable fixtures against Everton and Norwich while away trips to West Brom, Fulham and Newcastle are anything but daunting.
Tottenham and Chelsea’s schedules, however, are not so kind. Following the international break both clubs face a ridiculous five games in 15 days. Spurs take on Swansea away, FC Basel at home, Everton at home and Basel away before returning home three days later to play Chelsea. The Blues face a tricky away fixture at Southampton before hosting Rubin Kazan and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. Rafa Benitez’ squad then travels to Russia for the second leg against Kazan and three days later returns to London for the clash with Tottenham.
If either side advances in Europe they’ll be burdened with a two legged semi-final matchup on April 25th and May 2nd, and a final on May 15th. These matches will slot into an already busy league schedule that pits the Lillywhites against Manchester City, Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland and the Blues against Liverpool, Swansea, United, Aston Villa and Everton.
How it all plays out for Arsenal, remains to be seen. With Jack Wilshire’s fragility and the recent demotion of Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen to the bench, the Gunners are not a club without questions. But I’ll be darned if that fixture list doesn’t have Arsenal supporters frothing at the mouth.
Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.
With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.
[ MORE: Atletico Madrid reach UCL final ]
Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.
I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.
They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.
I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.
Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.
At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.
ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.
Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.
[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]
Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.
Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.
Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.
Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.
[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]
The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.
Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.
[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]
Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]
With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”
Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.
Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.
We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.
It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.
If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’
Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.
[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]
Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’