Battle to ‘avoid’ Champions League heats up, Cardiff City on the brink – What we learnt from this weekend’s Premier League action
It’s crunch time in the Premier League as a thrilling season enters its final weeks.
In the battle for the top four, Tottenham suffered their first defeat at their new stadium at the hands of West Ham, while Arsenal lost at Leicester.
But Manchester United and Chelsea were unable to take full advantage of their rivals’ errors as they played out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
Wolves got revenge for their FA Cup semi-final defeat against Watford with a win at Vicarage Road, while Crystal Palace and Everton played out a goalless draw at Selhurst Park.
At the bottom end of the league, Cardiff suffered a potentially season defining defeat at Fulham, as fellow relegation strugglers Southampton and Brighton earned a point each against Bournemouth and Newcastle respectively.
But what were the key things we learned? talkSPORT.com gives its verdict below.
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Champions League qualification up for grabs
Perhaps the most surprising theme of recent weeks has been the simultaneous collapses of the clubs battling for Champions League qualification.
Tottenham, considered title challengers until very recently, lost at home to West Ham meaning they have lost six of their last ten in the league.
Their poor form would have had even more serious repercussions had it not been matched by their rivals though.
Arsenal have lost four of their last five, and Manchester United four of their last seven and failed to beat Chelsea at Old Trafford in a game that could end the Red Devils’ top four hopes.
Liverpool still performing, but City passing the tests
Earlier in the season Liverpool’s mentality was questioned when a series of draws cost them their lead in the Premier League title race.
However, in recent months they appear to have overcome those anxieties, emerging victorious from a number of crucial fixtures against the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea.
Liverpool were full of confidence during their victory over Huddersfield on Friday, although the Terriers are already down.
But the sight of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah scoring two each, and topping the goal scoring charts in the process, shows Liverpool are hitting their peak at the right time.
They have won ten in a row in all competitions, but City have won their last twelve league matches after getting past Burnley on Sunday.
Sergio Aguero’s strike was enough to restore City’s place at the top – the goal being given after referee Paul Tierney referrred to goal-line technology because Matt Lowton looked like he had cleared the ball off the line.
But Lowton’s heroic efforts were in vain, as replays showed the ball crossed the line by 29mm! That’s just how close the title race is!
Relegation all but decided
Cardiff’s defeat against Fulham at Craven Cottage all but concluded the fight for survival in the Premier League.
Southampton, Brighton and Cardiff were the teams who could still go down at the beginning of the weekend but Saints’ point against Bournemouth guaranteed their safety, whilst Brighton’s draw with Newcastle lifted them four points above Neil Warnock’s men with two games remaining.
The Bluebirds must win both of their remaining fixtures (given their significantly inferior goal difference to Brighton) and hope Brighton lose both of theirs in order to reach safety.
Stranger things have happened, but it seems like a tall order.
Southampton revitalised under Hasenhuttl
When Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced Mark Hughes in December 2018, Southampton were languishing at 18th in the league with only nine points from 15 games.
However, they have claimed 29 points from the 21 league matches since the Austrian took over and are now staying up with two games to spare.
The man referred to as ‘the Klopp of the Alps’ has done a good job of improving the form of certain players.
Shane Long has put his well-documented goal scoring droughts behind him, scoring twice this week and James Warde-Prowse’s excellent form earned the midfielder an England call-up earlier this season.
Southampton are a club in safe hands.
Source: SportsLatest TS