This season could be one of those rare campaigns where all the major issues go to the wire. The Premier League title race is as tight as it could be, while the fight for survival is on. The fight for the fourth Champions League spot in the English top-flight is another issue that needs deciding. The thing is though that seems to swing one way and then another, as every team seems to be inconsistent.
Challengers suffer defeats on Saturday
After a fine run of recent results, Tottenham had entered this weekend expecting to record a comfortable win over Brighton at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Instead, Antonio Conte’s team suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against the Seagulls, opening the race again. Spurs had won their previous four matches, which shows how shocks can happen.
A few weeks ago, Arsenal looked to be in form and in pole position to clinch the lucrative fourth spot. However, they also suffered the same fate as their north London rivals, losing 1-0 at Southampton. The Gunners’ third straight league defeat saw them fall to sixth place in the table, although they do have a game in hand on Tottenham and fifth-place Manchester United. Despite having as many as three games in hand on their rivals, Mikel Arteta’s team are now in a precarious position compared with that of a few weeks ago.
Manchester United is the big winner of the weekend
While Manchester United didn’t exactly blow rock-bottom Norwich away in a 3-2 win at Old Trafford, the Red Devils still picked up maximum points courtesy of a hat-trick from ageing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Ralf Rangnick’s team blew a two-goal lead, but a powerful free-kick from the former Real Madrid star clinched the win.
There has been plenty of talk of United bringing in a new head coach this season after a poor campaign. However, the men from Manchester are now just three points outside the Champions League. Despite their perceived poor campaign, United could still finish in the top-four, which would be a form of achievement considering their seriously underwhelming season thus far.
Rangnick’s team’s next game is at the home of bitter-rivals Liverpool, who are in form and very much on the hunt for the Premier League title this season. They will probably have to produce their best performance of the campaign to get anything from their midweek trip to Merseyside.
The race is wide open at the moment
It would be impossible to predict who would take that final Champions League spot. Tottenham looked to be the form team and with the experience of head coach Antonio Conte on their bench they could still finish in fourth place. The Brighton result illustrated just how quickly things in football though. Arsenal’s sudden collapse in form also shows that things can change very quickly in football too.
Manchester United’s challenge for a Champions League spot could be dead and buried in the next few weeks, as they not only face a trip to Liverpool but also visit rivals for a top-four spot Arsenal in the game after that.
The fact that absolutely nothing is decided in the Premier League at this stage of the campaign will only make the last few months of the season more entertaining and intriguing. The only thing we can do when it comes to the English top-flight is to expect the unexpected.
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Who will finish fourth place in the Premier League table this season?