EPL

Premier League is back: The games that could decide the title, relegation and European qualification

By Sports Desk May 28, 2020

Premier League clubs fearing a cancelled season could decide their fate away from the pitch can breathe a sigh of relief after it was confirmed the top flight is set to return on June 17.

The 20 clubs have either nine or 10 fixtures each still to complete and though the title race may have already nearly reached the finish line, there is plenty to be decided further down the table.

Here, we take a look at the crucial fixtures that will determine the title, European qualification and the battle to avoid relegation.

 

MD30: Tottenham v Manchester United

Scott McTominay's derby-settling winner against Manchester City had helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer build up plenty of goodwill back in March, but the United momentum has surely been halted by the lengthy break.

They have a tough assignment first up against a Tottenham side that will likely have Harry Kane back from injury.

Solskjaer, whose own squad is set to be boosted by Marcus Rashford's return, has a fine record against the 'big six', though, and a win here - against a club led by his predecessor Jose Mourinho - would boost United's top-four hopes and significantly damage their opponents'.

 

MD31: Liverpool v Crystal Palace

It is a matter of when, rather than if, the Reds wrap up their first top-flight title in three decades, with Liverpool needing just two more wins to guarantee they will be crowned champions.

Should City lose to Arsenal when the league resumes, Liverpool could seal the title across the road from Anfield with a win at Goodison Park.

But the likelihood is Klopp's side will face Palace - the team who helped derail their title bid in 2014 with the 3-3 'Crystanbul' draw - knowing victory would end their long wait for Premier League glory.

 

MD35: Sheffield United v Chelsea

Beyond Liverpool's imperious march to the title, the story of the 2019-20 Premier League season has been the Blades' magnificent campaign following promotion last term.

The top four is still a realistic possibility for Chris Wilder's side, particularly if they can win their game in hand against Aston Villa and close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to two points, but they face a fight to qualify for the Europa League regardless.

They still have some tough fixtures left on the schedule, with Wolves, Everton and Tottenham their other three home games, but this contest against Frank Lampard's Blues will have a big say in their Europa League, or Champions League, chances.

 

MD35: Tottenham v Arsenal

Champions League regulars in recent seasons, there is a distinct possibility that neither Tottenham nor north London rivals Arsenal are even in Europe's second-tier competition next term.

Both are currently outside the top seven but within three points of Wolves and the Blades, who currently occupy the final two Europa League spots – presuming City's European ban stands.

This derby therefore has extra significance. The possibility of no European football in 2020-21 could also prompt Kane and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to seek pastures new when the transfer window reopens...

 

MD36: West Ham v Watford

The destination of the title may be a foregone conclusion but the battle to avoid the drop is far less clear.

Even Norwich City, six points adrift, will believe they can survive given they must still face West Ham, Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford.

Only goal difference currently separates West Ham and Watford from the bottom three and they meet in a pivotal contest towards the back end of the season.

 

MD38: West Ham v Aston Villa

The Hammers are no stranger to final-day drama - their draw with United in 1995 handed the title to Blackburn Rovers, while Carlos Tevez's winner at Old Trafford in 2007 helped ensure they stayed up.

David Moyes' men may need more heroics if the fight to avoid relegation goes to the wire.

Villa will begin the resumption in 19th place, two points behind West Ham, but with a game in hand. All eyes could be on London Stadium on the final day.

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    Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri insisted he was unworried about criticism as his team continue to chase trophies this season.

    Ahead of a trip to Sassuolo on Wednesday, Juve are six points clear atop Serie A with six games left to play, and also in the Champions League last 16.

    Sarri, who has lost the Coppa Italia final and Supercoppa Italiana this season, has faced some criticism, but the Juventus coach is not bothered.

    "Honestly, I don't pay much attention to criticism, I always try to be focused only on what I can do," he told a news conference.

    "I don't know what people say on social media because I'm not on them and I will never be in my life.

    "If we talk instead of people in the streets, I only receive support and affection."

    Juventus are winless in their past two games and needed a pair of penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo to draw with Atalanta last time out.

    Sarri was asked about his side's lack of goals from midfield, but he has no concerns about their firepower, although Ronaldo (seven) and Paulo Dybala (four) have netted the majority of their goals in the past six games.

    "We scored 17 goals in the last six matches and I'm not concerned about our scoring ratio frankly," he said.

    "We all know that among our midfielders [Aaron] Ramsey is the one that can potentially score more goals considering his individual characteristics.

    "Then we have two players that are growing a lot and in the future, I'm sure they will score more like [Rodrigo] Bentancur and [Adrien] Rabiot."

  • Lampard urges Chelsea to focus ahead of 'tough' finish Lampard urges Chelsea to focus ahead of 'tough' finish

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    Olivier Giroud's first-half goal was enough to see Chelsea edge Norwich City 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, moving four points clear of Leicester City and Manchester United, who are fourth and fifth respectively and have played one less game.

    But Lampard's men have league matches against Liverpool and Wolves to finish their campaign as they look to secure a top-four finish.

    The Chelsea head coach believes Chelsea still face a battle to secure their place in next season's Champions League.

    "I keep talking about mentality and I don't like the word bottle too much, but when you're coming up against Liverpool away and Wolves at home, it's just two very good opponents," Lampard told a news conference.

    "We just have to focus on those games one by one, prepare right, show the right attitude, I thought we showed it [against Norwich] in a way, those two games will look completely different to what tonight did.

    "But rather than talk about bottle, I want to talk about focus and I want to talk about attitude and then hopefully we have enough to get through, but it's going to be tough."

    In Lampard's first season in charge, Chelsea are also in the FA Cup semi-finals and Champions League last 16, although they suffered a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the first leg.

    The 42-year-old has been pleased with Chelsea's progress, although accepted they still had a long way to go to catch Liverpool and Manchester City.

    "We can be pretty happy with where we're at right now," Lampard said.

    "I don't want to jump the gun because we have games that are going to be really pivotal on where we actually finish, but if we were to have said we would've been in third and contesting like we are and in the FA Cup and Champions League, I know it's going to be really tough but we got through the group stage, and you see the transition of the team and the youth and the issues we had, a lot of our players were on loan last year and most of those in the Championship, I think we can be pretty happy.

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    Frank Lampard paid tribute to Olivier Giroud's character and professionalism after becoming a key player for Chelsea in recent weeks despite appearing to be on his way out of the club in January.

    Giroud, 33, was strongly linked with a transfer away from Chelsea at the start of the year having reportedly grown frustrated with a lack of first-team football, finding himself back-up to Tammy Abraham.

    But Chelsea kept hold of the Frenchman and he has taken on a key role in the club's bid for Champions League qualification since the Premier League's resumption last month, scoring four times.

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    "He is always going to give you a desire to get in there for the team," Lampard told Sky Sports. "He had a few half chances in the central area. That is what you have to do when he is in the team – use his attributes, try and cross the ball.

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    "Just before the lockdown as well, he came in and got us a couple of big results and that's probably credit he was due anyway.

    "He has never given me a problem, always trained brilliantly, and when Tammy was really playing very well earlier in the season and regularly staying in the team, his professionalism was always good.

    "I told him in January I wanted him to stay and he was fantastic with how he handled that, and he has continued to do that in the way he trains, and the way he plays is important for us."

    Lampard was by no means impressed with the collective display at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, though he accepts that getting the points is all that matters for the time being.

    "It was OK – I shouldn't joke because at this stage of the season, as we've seen in the last 48 hours, results are critical and we didn't concede any chances of note, we created a few ourselves, got our one goal," he said.

    "We could have got more with better quality, but it was OK, professional is probably the word. I want more, but that can wait. Where we are at as a team and the position in the table, three points was everything."

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