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State of play in the Premier League

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There’s something about the Premier League’s run-in that makes true May (or late April) mountains out of what would be January mole hills, and that’s exactly why we’re excited for what otherwise would be a Manchester City waltz to the title.

The same can be said for any table standing race, really, from the Top Four to seventh to the desperately sought 17th spot between Cardiff City and Brighton.

City enters its home stretch with a three match run of Burnley (away), Leicester City (home), and Brighton (away). Plop that early on their schedule and you’d strongly pencil them in for three wins (the same as you would for Liverpool with Huddersfield home, Newcastle away, Wolves home).

With the stakes raised, however, Burnley’s form and Sean Dyche‘s defensive acumen loom a bit larger. Leicester’s relatively decent record against Pep Guardiola feels like a slick slope, and Liverpool’s poor record versus Wolves foretells final week slippage.

And the Reds also have to deal with a pair of matches against Barcelona, which is also the only controllable path toward hardware in what could become another silverware-free year at Anfield (The Reds have won one cup since the start of the 2007-08 season, beating Cardiff City in penalties for the 2012 League Cup).

Here’s what’s left for the top dogs.

Man City: In the Pep era, City is 6W-1D against Burnley including twin 5-0 wins at the Etihad Stadium this season and a combined score line of 22-4. City has had a much worse time with Leicester, losing this season’s league contest at the King Power Stadium and advancing past the Foxes in penalty kicks during League Cup play. City is 4-0 against Brighton since 2017.

Liverpool: Liverpool is 3-0 and has not conceded a goal to Huddersfield this century. It’s 2W-1D against the Magpies in its last three outings, and Wolves have a 2W-1L advantage against the Reds since 2017.


The Top Four

Just a word on the form of the Premier League’s third- and fourth-place candidates and OH NO, MY EYES.

Spurs would have to really falter to fall out of the picture, given advantages in goal differential, points, matches won, and goals scored.

Here are the remaining fixtures.

Spurs: v. West Ham, at Bournemouth, v. Everton

Chelsea: at Man Utd, v. Watford, at Leicester

Arsenal: at Leicester, v. Brighton, at Burnley

Man Utd: v. Chelsea, at Huddersfield, v. Cardiff City

United needs to beat Chelsea, then hope to pad its goal differential while asking for upsets of Chelsea and Arsenal.

Remember: If Arsenal or Chelsea win the Europa League and finishes in fifth or sixth, and if Spurs win the Champions League and finish in fifth or sixth (however unlikely that is), fourth place will not be good enough for Champions League qualification.


Seventh place

It still looks like the route to Europa League, provided Man City beats Watford in the FA Cup Final.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Wolves 35 14 9 12 44 43 1 9-4-5 5-5-7 51
 Watford 35 14 8 13 50 50 0 8-3-6 6-5-7 50
 Everton 35 14 7 14 50 44 6 9-4-5 5-3-9 49
 Leicester City 35 14 6 15 48 47 1 7-2-8 7-4-7 48

Wolves are in control following their surprising demolition of Arsenal on Wednesday, but that could change come Saturday at chasers Watford.

Everton will be hoping for a draw in that match and a win of its own at Crystal Palace, while Leicester City begins a murderer’s row of fixtures with a visit from Arsenal.

The goal differentials are close, and all the teams have won 14. It’s truly anyone’s ballgame, though Leicester’s fixture list make the Foxes a very long shot. And Matchday 38 features three of the four facing Top Six teams. Watford hosts West Ham. Could that spell UEL for Elton John’s favorite side?


Relegation

Fulham and Huddersfield Town are already headed for the Championship, while Southampton would need a tremendous 0-3 run with hemorrhaged goals to be a factor for 18th.

This comes down to Brighton and Cardiff City.

Chris Hughton‘s Seagulls have 34 points, a minus-22 goal differential, and nine wins.

Neil Warnock‘s Bluebirds have 31, minus-35, and nine wins.

Left on the docket for Brighton are Newcastle at home, Arsenal away, and Man City at home.

Cardiff will visit Fulham, hosts Crystal Palace, and head to Manchester United.

It’s not an impossible dream for Cardiff, but it’s going to have to start with a win this weekend and a Brighton loss to Newcastle that puts the sides level on points going into the final two. If the Seagulls can beat Newcastle, forget about Cardiff’s chances.

Finlay goal gives Minnesota win over former club Columbus (video)

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It had to be him.

As Columbus continues to search for itself under new management, it’s no surprise that one of its old heroes broke its heart on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Ethan Finlay, he of the 166 Crew appearances before being traded to Minnesota United, said earlier this week, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to beat up on them pretty bad.”

So of course Finlay scored a 70th minute tap-in to give his Loons a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday in St. Paul. It wasn’t “pretty bad,” but it probably felt pretty good.

The goal was Finlay’s first of the season for United, keeping the hosts unbeaten at home.

Columbus falls to 1-5 away from home under Caleb Porter, and has won just once in its last seven outings.

Brighton ready to pay release clause for Swans manager

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Brighton and Hove Albion is ready to bring one of England’s brightest managerial prospects into the Premier League.

The Seagulls are set to pay a $3 million release clause to lure Graham Potter away from Swansea City, one year after the manager left Swedish club Ostersunds FK.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Potter was 35 when he was hired by the Swedish club in 2010, and helped Ostersunds to three promotions before moving to Wales in 2018.

Swans finished 10th this season, its first in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League.

Brighton regressed in a big way during the second half of this season, and remains in the top flight largely because Cardiff City was unable to take advantage of the Seagulls’ huge struggles.

The report says Swansea offered Potter a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium, but the manager wants to try the Premier League.

If he takes the job, Potter will manage against one of his former clubs; Potter played eight times for Southampton in the Premier League.

Pep: Domestic treble harder than winning Champions League

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Manchester City won its third tournament of the season on Saturday, battering Watford 6-0 at Wembley Stadium to add an FA Cup to its League Cup and Premier League titles.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

In doing so, City is the first club to win a domestic treble. Manager Pep Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters, but said winning all three is extra special.

“I love the Champions League but it is more difficult to do what we have done than to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

Wait, what?

From ManCity.com:

“It’s not easy being there every three days. We lacked a little bit of energy but it’s normal. It’s been so tough this week. We could not have had more energy but we kept it at the right time.”

Well, that makes sense. Whereas Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp risked less with his cup lineups, knowing his desire for the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola’s lineups were aimed at winning everything.

And that’s largely why they’ve done it. City might’ve needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea in the League Cup Final and a John Stones clearance to win the Premier League (or a Vincent Kompany thunderbolt), but the treble is impressive.

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth “not a failure”

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”