With the Premier League title race done and dusted, the fight for relegation will get even more focus than usual from now until the end of the season.
With QPR and Reading virtually relegated, barring a miracle for either side, who will join them in the Championship next season?
The side who currently lie in the relegation zone are Wigan. They are known for their heroic end-of-season form, however, and do have two games in hand on those above them. Although the FA Cup final against Manchester City could act as a distraction, they have a little too much quality to go down.
Aston Villa are just outside the bottom three, and one week they leave you impressed after a great win but then they go and draw with Fulham in a game they had to be winning. They are a very young side lacking in experience, which could work against them when the really vital games arrive in the last two or three games. What they would give to have captain Stilian Petrov fit and bossing the midfield. You feel it could go right up to the final day with Paul Lambert’s side.
Stoke are level on points with Villa, and they are unquestionably the most out of form side in the Premier League. Since Christmas they have got less points than anyone, and coach Tony Pulis is under huge pressure now. Their home form used to win them so many points, but the Britannia Stadium is not the fortress it once was. If they don’t start scoring soon and playing more positively away from home, they will be relegated.
Sunderland and Norwich are the only other two sides in danger if going down. Paolo Di Canio’s arrival at Sunderland has given them a massive boost, and their 3-0 derby win over Newcastle was huge. You feel that they have momentum in their favour and that they will be safe. Norwich have the ability to grind out important wins at home, and there’s just a few too many sides below them for them to get sucked into the bottom three.
At the moment it looks like Aston Villa and Stoke will be the ones battling it out for safety, with Stoke the one’s seriously lacking confidence. If Wigan lose their games in hand, however, they will be favourites to join QPR and Reading, but they just have enough in their ranks to avoid the drop for yet another season.
The game in 100 words (or less): While one American star continues to earn more time on the pitch, another is making his presence felt as his side pushes for a playoff position. Jordan Morris’ 11 and 12th goals of the season were the difference for the Sounders on Sunday afternoon, propelling his side to within three points of the six spot in the Western Conference. Despite trailing early on, the Sounders stormed back with three second-half tallies and now have the postseason very much in sight. For the Galaxy, Bruce Arena’s group remains in third place in the West.
[ MORE: David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola and more ]
Three four five moments that mattered
20′ – Keane smashes home header — Sebastian Lletget has played a key role for the Galaxy in 2016, and the midfielder’s cross was everything it should be to help put the the hosts out in front.
35′ — Van Damme own goal levels it up before halftime — Call it lucky but with the playoffs on the line, the Sounders need all the help they can get as the regular season winds down.
63′ — Morris stuns StubHub crowd — It’s safe to say the Sounders are happy Jordan Morris opted to play in MLS this season. The American striker not only knocked in his 11th goal of the year but this beauty of a finish also propelled the Sounders to within three points of a playoff spot.
73′ — Morris tacks one on for good measure — Was it as pretty as the first one? No. Was it timely? We’ll let you judge.
73′ — Alonso caps off win with screamer — He got a little help from the referee but Osvaldo Alonso made no mistake with this finish.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]
Man of the match: Jordan Morris
Goalscorers: Robbie Keane (20′, 84′), Jelle van Damme (OG 35′), Jordan Morris (63′, 73′), Osvaldo Alonso (78′)
Antoine Griezmann was the difference for Atletico Madrid on Sunday as Atletico Madrid narrowly defeated 10-man Deportivo La Coruna, 1-0, to move up to third place in La Liga. The visitors were reduced a player prior to halftime, as Faycal Fajr was sent off in first-half stoppage time after picking up his second yellow card.
[ MORE: Schalke misery continues, Leipzig earns road point ]
A clinical first half performance from Villareal gave the hosts a 3-1 win over Osasuna, who remain at the bottom of the table. Alexandre Pato kicked off the impressive offensive display from the Yellow Submarine after five minutes, before Bruno and Nicola Sansone also tallied before halftime. Roberto Torres pulled one back for Osasuna before the break but it wasn’t enough to capture a share of the points for the road side.
After trailing inside of the opening half hour, Valencia battled back for a 2-1 win over Leganes. Alexander Szymanowski handed the hosts the lead after 21 minutes, but it was Nani and Mario Suarez that had the final say for Valencia as they wound up with the points on the day. The victory pulls Valencia out of the relegation zone temporarily, with the club currently sitting on six points in as many matches.
It looked like the two sides were on pace for a share of the points, but late stoppage time finishes from Giuseppe Rossi and Pione Sisto gave Celta Vigo a 2-0 win over Espanyol. Rossi, who entered the match in the second half, knocked Celta into the lead in the 91st minute, before Sisto doubled the lead two minutes later.
Everything about Manchester City’s start to the 2016/17 Premier League season has been right, and Bacary Sagna is already praising the squad’s biggest attacking threat.
[ MORE: Podolski displeased with Mourinho’s treatment of Schweinsteiger ]
With the Citizens already on 18 points and unbeaten in their opening six matches, the veteran defender was quick to note the importance of Argentine striker Sergio Aguero — who has already notched five tallies.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Aguero, 28, has posted nine straight double-digit goalscoring seasons, dating back to his time in La Liga with Atletico Madrid. Last season, the Argentine netted 29 goals across all competitions, including 24 finishes in the PL.
“He is one of the best players I have played with, not just because he scores goals but also because of his attitude – he always wants to give his maximum for his team and bring the team up,” Sagna said of Aguero’s effort.
“His two goals showed his class. He has such desire in front of the box, and in the box itself. He is great.”
The Jose Mourinho-Bastian Schweinsteiger relationship is a very puzzling situation for Manchester United, and most outsiders appear to be taking the German’s side.
[ MORE: De Bruyne sidelined a month with hamstring injury ]
Former teammate Lukas Podolski has chimed in on the matter, pointing out Schweinsteiger’s decorated career for both club and country.
[ MORE: Lewis Baker stuns Twente with long-distance golazo ]
Since the arrival of Mourinho this summer, the Portuguese manager has made it clear that the 32-year-old isn’t his plans, including dropping Schweinsteiger to United’s reserves.
Podolski recently spoke to Bild about the situation:
“When you look at the career Bastian has had, I can only say that what is happening there is simply not right for a player of his stature,” Podolski said.
“I do not know what Mourinho has discussed with Bastian. But is clear that it is not okay to drop someone like Basti to the reserves.
“A coach should always keep his door open to all players, and especially to players like Schweini.”
While Schweinsteiger’s contract doesn’t run out until 2018, the volatile relationship between the Red Devils midfielder and Mourinho certainly looks to be one that won’t last much longer.