With three weeks remaining in the 2013-14 Premier League season we find ourselves with two major interests – the race to qualify for Europe (only suckas sleep on the Europa League) and the battle to avoid relegation.
In this piece, we’ll be discussing the former.
Let me start by noting that, like you guys, I’d rather be sitting here discussing a title race. But United put the kobosh on that storyline with the 3-0 blanking of Aston Villa a week and a half ago.
With the championship in hand United also claimed a spot in next year’s Champions League meaning three spots remain in Europe’s top tournament while a single spot remains in the Europa League. Five clubs are in contention: Manchester City (71 pts), Chelsea (65 pts), Arsenal (64 pts), Tottenham (62 pts) and Everton (59 pts).
Here’s how it all breaks down this weekend.
SWANSEA CITY v. MANCHESTER CITY (Liberty Stadium; Sat 10:00am EST)
With a win this weekend, City will secure its place in the Top 4. The Citizens enter the match winners of four of their last five and still pushing to save face with United by minimizing the gap between first and second. They’ll face a Swansea side that, since securing a spot in next year’s Premiership, have been in a free-fall going winless in their last six matches with only two points to their name.
Look for City to throttle the Swans.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v. SOUTHAMPTON (White Hart Lane; Sat 10:00am EST)
With Everton nipping at their heels just three points back and Arsenal at arm’s length just two points ahead, Tottenham are in must win territory. They’ll face a tough test against Manuel Pochetino’s flashy Southampton side that only needs a single point to ensure their place in next year’s Champion’s League.
Spurs look ready for the kill.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS v. ARSENAL (Loftus Road; Sat 12:30pm EST)
A simple preview for a simple match. Something is seriously wrong with the Gunners if they don’t capitalize on a relegated and demoralized QPR.
Arsenal win with ease.
LIVERPOOL v. EVERTON (Anfield; Sun 8:30am EST)
Might this be Everton’s first victory at Anfield in 14 years? My biased heart says yes. But for an objective opinion, check out my extended take on this weekend’s Merseyside derby:
MANCHESTER UNITED v. CHELSEA (Old Trafford; Sun 11:00am EST)
For Chelsea, a loss this weekend would not be ideal but hardly lethal as the Blues still enjoy a game in hand on Arsenal. That game in hand, however, is against a Spurs team that is just three points adrift, meaning Rafa Benitez’ side would do well to take care of business ASAP.
Of course, that’s easier said than done as Chelsea set off to Old Trafford for a clash with United. It’s a match that, as Sir Alex Ferguson proved last weekend, will feature a slightly watered-down United side that that nevertheless remains hungry to compete.
With both teams near full health this should be a belter of a match but one that I expect will end in a draw.