The English Premier League is winding up slowly but surely and the dogfights are on among different teams. Some are fighting to cement their Champions League qualification positions, others are eyeing Europa League. And of course, there are those fighting not to go down.
All these generate excitement. And of course we learned at least five things this weekend from that:
Liverpool’s Achilles heel exposed again
Crystal Palace’s Zaire-born Belgian striker Christian Benteke (C) scores past Liverpool’s Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet (L) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 23, 2017. Geoff CADDICK / AFP
Jurgen Klopp has failed to cure the Liverpool conundrum — they go walkabout when playing the teams from the lower reaches. Looking in control of Crystal Palace they allowed their lead to slip and woeful defending at a corner for the second saw old boy Christian Benteke head home to record a double. Liverpool’s hopes of a Champions League place in all likelihood took a fatal hit with the Palace defeat but similar losses throughout the season like against Bournemouth have also done untold damage. Until Klopp solves the problem Liverpool will not be realistic title challengers.
‘Special One’s’ critical words prove effective
Manchester United’s English striker Wayne Rooney (C) scores during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on April 23, 2017. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Jose Mourinho’s style may agitate many especially with his criticism of Luke Shaw and then Anthony Martial but it appears to have had a marked effect on both players. Martial responded with a goal and a key role in the second in the 2-0 win over Burnley that gives real hope for United to finish in the top four and secure a Champions League place through that route. The only people who on Sunday may not have been as happy will be the United accountants as Martial’s goal cost them an extra 10million euros and enriched Monaco’s coffers at the same time.
‘Boro demoralised and on the edge of abyss
Bournemouth’s English midfielder Marc Pugh (R) celebrates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Middlesbrough at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on April 22, 2017. Glyn KIRK / AFP
Regardless of Gaston Ramirez’s 20th minute sending off, Middlesbrough were already 2-0 down to Bournemouth and whilst manager Steve Agnew urged his troops to rally for the midweek game with bottom side, and north-east rivals, Sunderland victory would probably just be for bragging rights as both look destined for the second tier. ‘Boro are nine points adrift of safety — and still without a league win in 2017 the only side in the top European leagues to have the unwanted tag — and with Hull especially in good order catching them looks beyond a side whose paucity of invention and goals has cost them dearly.
Hull home comforts
Hull showed Middlesbrough that being reduced to 10 men is no barrier to victory as Oumar Niasse’s first-half expulsion did more to energise Hull than it did a lacklustre Watford outfit who looked like they are eyeing the beach already. Since Marco Silva took over in January, Hull have taken on a different look in both style and morale and have dropped just two points at home. That could ultimately prove the difference between the drop and staying up.
Swansea not ready to give up fight
After a rocky run of form the team delivered the win manager Paul Clement demanded, a 2-0 win over a wasteful Stoke side. If the Swans are to beat the drop, though, they will require leading scorer Fernando Llorente — who got their first on Saturday — to stay fit. Even more crucially will be that playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson maintains his high standards as he has all but singlehandedly been the driving force that has kept their hopes alive of retaining their spot amongst the elite this season.