While the Premier League title race unfolds, there is another tussle playing out at the bottom.

And this weekend, six of the teams at the wrong end of the table fight it out against each other.

On Saturday, Luton Town will hope to propel themselves out of the relegation zone by overcoming Brentford at Kenilworth Road, though the 15th-placed Bees will know that another win could all but end their worries of dropping down to the Championship.

At the same time, the two bottom clubs go head-to-head at Bramall Lane, with Sheffield United hosting Burnley. Both the Blades and the Clarets look likely to go down, though if either are to survive, then taking three points from this one is a must.

Sunday’s early game is a huge one at Goodison Park, as Everton and Nottingham Forest – both impacted by points deductions for breaches of Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) – face off. The Toffees are 16th, a point better off than the Tricky Trees, but Sean Dyche’s team are on a dismal run of just one win in 15 league matches.

Crystal Palace are perhaps not out of the woods just yet, though after their stunning win at Anfield last time out, the Eagles will hope to carry on the momentum when they face West Ham.

And using Opta data, we can assess the likelihood of the Premier League relegation scrap, as well as the underlying metrics behind each of these teams.

 

Let’s work from the top down.

Palace, after that shock 1-0 win over Liverpool, are now not considered to be relegation candidates by Opta’s predictive model, which gives them a 46.5 per cent chance of staying right where they are in 14th.

The Eagles are six points clear of Everton in 17th, and while not mathematically safe, Oliver Glasner’s team are certainly within touching distance.

It is worth noting, though, that according to the Opta power rankings, Palace have the most difficult run-in of all these seven teams, with the average rating of their remaining opponents coming in at 87.9. Like the Toffees and Sheffield United, Palace have six matches left to play, though they do not play any of the teams below them in that run.

Next come Brentford. The Bees have five games remaining but, with 33 points, are likely just a win away from tying up their safety, and they will be hoping that comes against Luton (as well Everton and Forest fans).

According to Opta’s model, Brentford have the second-easiest fixture list of any team in the league, with their average opponent rating of 85.1 higher only than Newcastle United’s (84.1).

The Bees do, though, face a trip to Everton after they head to Luton, so should the worst occur and they lose those matches, then Thomas Frank’s team could find themselves firmly back in danger. As it stands, Brentford’s chances of going down are a meagre 0.3 per cent.

Brentford are the second-worst expected goals underperformers in the competition this season, having scored six fewer goals than would have been anticipated based on the quality of opportunities they have created, suggesting that with better finishing, and a bit more luck, they would likely be clear of danger already.

And if that can be said for Brentford, then it can be emphatically repeated for 16th-placed Everton.

 

Even factoring in the eight points that have been taken off them this term, Everton – who were thrashed 6-0 by Chelsea on Monday – could have been out of danger had they simply come close to matching their xG. They are by far the Premier League’s biggest underperformers when it comes to that metric – Dyche’s side have scored 32 goals (which ranks 19th in the league) from an xG of 48, a whopping underperformance of 16.

Sunday’s clash with Forest kick-starts a huge week of home games for the Toffees, with a Merseyside derby against Liverpool following on April 24, before Brentford then visit Goodison Park.

With Forest, Brentford, Luton and Sheffield United among their final four fixtures, Everton should still have some confidence – they have taken seven points off those sides already this term, and a repeat of that could be enough, though a final-day away outing at Arsenal is ominous, given the Toffees have shipped nine goals in their last two visits to Emirates Stadium. Opta predicts they will stay up, but Everton do have an 8.9 per cent chance of slipping out of the top tier for the first time in over 70 years.

Below them, Forest will no doubt have been buoyed by Everton’s sorry performance at Stamford Bridge. However, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team do have a rather sizeable 29.9 per cent chance of going down, so a victory at Goodison Park could be vital.

Especially considering Forest’s next fixture comes against Manchester City, albeit it is at home, where they also face Chelsea in between away clashes with Sheffield United and Burnley.

Perhaps worrying for Forest, however, is that in their three matches against Everton, the Blades and Burnley this term, they have taken only four points. Interestingly, while Forest have shipped 58 goals – a figure which betters only the bottom three, they have been unfortunate to concede so many based on their expected goals against (xGA), which is actually the sixth best in the league at 47.4.

Then we have Luton. The Hatters have been one of the stories of the season, and despite their small budget have a brilliant chance of survival.

That being said, Opta’s predictive model does anticipate they will go down, with Rob Edwards’ side having a 54.3 per cent chance of finishing where they are in 18th, with their chances of finishing in 17th being 29.6 per cent.

Victory over Brentford, who beat them 3-1 earlier in the campaign, would see Luton move out of the bottom three, though, and with five games left, they do have what is considered a relatively easy run-in when it comes to the average rating of those teams they are going up against, at 85.4.

That being said, Luton’s defensive record this season is awful. The Hatters have shipped 70 goals from an xGA of 69.7. They will need to tighten up if they are to complete the great escape.

 

What about the bottom two?

Well, they are perhaps down and out. After visiting South Yorkshire on Saturday, Vincent Kompany’s Burnley team have to go to Old Trafford and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium either side of hosting Newcastle, and Opta’s predictive model suggests they will go down – they have just a 1.6 per cent chance of survival.

There is an even smaller chance of the Blades, who are 20th, staying up, at just 0.2 per cent.

Chris Wilder’s team are the team with the fewest goals scored in the top flight, at 30, while they have conceded 84 – the worst in the division, and while victory over the Clarets would provide a morale-boost, the Blades seemed destined for the Championship.

Portsmouth sealed a Sky Bet Championship return on Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Barnsley and several other teams still have plenty to play for as another enthralling domestic season draws to a close.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the promotion and relegation issues up and down the country.

Premier League

Neutrals are gripped by the first three-way title race in the top flight for a long time. Another twist occurred last weekend as champions Manchester City returned to the summit on Saturday, before Arsenal and Liverpool suffered shock home defeats on Sunday. With six games left, Pep Guardiola’s side hold a two-point lead over the Gunners and Reds.

At the other end, an intriguing relegation battle continues – on and off the pitch. Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton occupy the bottom three spots and, while the race appears almost run for the Blades and the Clarets have an uphill task to stay up, the Hatters’ survival hopes remain alive. Nottingham Forest and Everton – in 17th and 16th, respectively – are within touching distance, as both clubs wait to learn their fates after appealing against points deductions over breaches of financial rules.

Championship

It has been a rollercoaster ride for supporters’ of Ipswich, Leicester, Leeds and Southampton this season, especially in recent weeks. With only a handful of matches left, Kieran McKenna’s Tractor Boys are top on 89 points, with the second-placed Foxes a point behind with a game in hand. However, that fixture is against fourth-placed Saints, who are not out of the top-two race themselves with a four-point deficit to previously runaway leaders Leicester. Leeds sit third, with all four still in with a shot of automatic promotion spot.

Rotherham’s relegation to League One has already been confirmed, but two more spaces need to be finalised. Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield are in the bottom three on 44 points each. Birmingham sit one point above the two Yorkshire clubs, while Stoke, QPR, Plymouth and Blackburn would not consider themselves safe as they remain below the 50-point mark.

League One

 

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After Pompey claimed the title on Tuesday, all eyes are on which club will be runners-up. Derby are second on 86 points with a three-point gap to Bolton, but Peterborough, with a game in hand, cannot be ruled out despite a six-point deficit to the second-placed Rams. Everything could be settled this weekend.

Carlisle are already consigned to the fourth tier and Fleetwood’s defeat at Peterborough left them six points from safety with only two games to go. Port Vale are 22nd on 40 points, while Cheltenham are 21st on 41 points, but crucially have a match in hand. It means Burton, especially, and Cambridge are still looking over their shoulders, with the former only two points above the bottom four and the latter holding a five-point advantage along with a game in hand.

League Two

Mansfield joined Stockport and Wrexham in clinching promotion to League One on Tuesday, but there is still one relegation spot to be determined. Colchester’s win over Grimsby ended the survival hopes of Forest Green and gave the victors a four-point advantage over 23rd-placed Sutton along with a game in hand. Sutton need to win their last two matches and hope both Grimsby and Colchester fail to win again this season.

What the papers say

Jadon Sancho would be open to an attempt to relaunch his Manchester United career if manager Erik ten Hag leaves, The i reports.
Sancho returned to former club Borussia Dortmund on loan in January.

Liverpool are set to appoint David Woodfine as the assistant sporting director to work alongside Richard Hughes, with Woodfine returning to Anfield less than a year after leaving, according to the Liverpool Echo.

The Sun writes that Manchester United will open talks with 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo over a new contract.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Arthur Okonkwo: The Athletic reports that Wrexham want to turn the 22-year-old’s loan from Arsenal into a permanent deal.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Football Insider says Everton are keen to extend the 27-year-old striker’s contract, which is due to run out at the end of next season.

Federico Chiesa: Juventus will listen to offers for the Italian player, who has been linked with Liverpool and Newcastle, after disagreements between the 26-year-old forward and Massimiliano Allegri, reports Tuttosport.

Manchester United’s regeneration task force charged with exploring the redevelopment of Old Trafford has met for the first time.

Lord Coe, chair of a group that also includes Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, and former United captain Gary Neville, oversaw the meeting that took place on Monday.

United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is looking to build a world-class stadium by either redeveloping Old Trafford or constructing a new ground on adjacent land owned by the Premier League club.

“Yesterday, I chaired the first meeting of the Old Trafford regeneration task force to kick off a conversation about how development of a world-class football stadium for the north of England can deliver social and economic benefits for the region,” London 2012 chief Coe said on X.

“At the London 2012 Olympics, I saw first-hand how sport can be a powerful driver of urban regeneration and I am excited to be part of this project.

“This meeting marked the start of a multi-stakeholder process to explore options for the stadium and surrounding area. We are at the start of this journey, and it is too soon to know where it will lead.

“But we will consult closely with fans and local residents along the way, and keep everyone informed of progress.”

Ratcliffe has described the plans to build a new ground and regenerate the Old Trafford area as a “once-in-a-century opportunity”.

With redevelopment of the existing site costing in the region of £1billion and building a new stadium altogether requiring a £2billion outlay, the task force will also examine options for financing the project.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says he owes everything to Jurgen Klopp and believes the Liverpool manager’s impending departure could feed into the title-race drama.

Reigning champions Manchester City sit top of the Premier League pile with six matches remaining after second-placed Arsenal and the third-spotted Reds suffered shock defeats on Sunday.

Liverpool’s 1-0 home loss to Crystal Palace compounded Thursday’s 3-0 Europa League quarter-final defeat at the hands of Atalanta in what could prove Klopp’s final European night at Anfield.

Alexander-Arnold made his return from two months out with a knee injury in the Eagles encounter and expects more “twists and turns” as the popular German’s final season in charge comes to an end.

“I think experience is a massive part of it,” the Liverpool academy product told The Overlap podcast.

“Obviously the other two teams will have experience from last season. They had their own title race within themselves.”

Asked if Klopp leaving and the emotion around gives Liverpool an edge in the run-in, Alexander-Arnold said: “I think he will feed into that, the further it goes.

“Let’s say we get into May, the start of May, and it’s still that tight, then he’ll start to feed into how it’s going to look, how it could feel. Up until then, we just need to try and stay (composed).

“He never says, ‘We’re trying to win the league, we’re going to win the league’.

“He doesn’t really speak about it. It’s more, ‘We’re going to get the most out of ourselves, we’re going to squeeze every drop of potential’.

“There will be twists and turns, no matter what.”

Liverpool are hoping for an almighty change in fortunes at Atalanta on Thursday, when the second leg could see Alexander-Arnold make his first start since February 10.

Every one of his appearances for his boyhood club have come under Klopp, to whom the homegrown star is eternally grateful.

“Incredible, really,” Alexander-Arnold said. “I owe everything to him, really, as a player.

“I was thinking about this recently. The only thing you can ever ask for as a young player is opportunity.

“All you can do is hope that when you get to 18, 19, you’ve got a manager that’s willing to give you a chance and I was fortunate enough to have that.

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“Not only that, he put his arm round me and guided me through it, through the ups and downs, the winning of stuff, losing things.

“Good games, bad games, because your first bad game you think you’re never going to kick a ball again. You think, ‘I’m done’.”

Alexander-Arnold is expecting it to feel “weird” returning to pre-season without Klopp, although he likes the idea of a “new challenge” under an as yet undetermined new boss.

The 25-year-old will likely return late to Liverpool given England are among the favourites for Euro 2024, at which Gareth Southgate has a midfield role in mind for him.

Asked whether he sees himself as a midfielder or a right-back, Alexander-Arnold said: “I’d probably say I still see myself as a right-back.

“I see myself as someone who can probably play in both positions if needed.

“But I think my focus, until I’m told otherwise by the gaffer, is that I’m still a right-back.

“I come inside and I play inside when we have the got ball, but essentially, when you write the team-sheet, I am a right-back.”

Cole Palmer has joined Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League goal-scorer’s chart after adding four more to his tally in Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Everton.

The Chelsea midfielder surged alongside Manchester City goal machine Haaland in the race for the Golden Boot, with both players currently on 20 in the top flight this season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the top six contenders for the award as the 2023-24 Premier League campaign enters the run-in.

Golden Boot battle

Cole Palmer (Chelsea) – 20 goals in 28 appearances

The 21-year-old’s remarkable first season at Chelsea just keeps getting better. Palmer, who did not score a league goal for Manchester City, has notched 10 in his last five league matches, rocketing into Golden Boot contention.

Erling Haaland (Man City) – 20 goals in 26 appearances

Haaland set the Premier League ablaze in 2022-23, claiming a new record of 36 goals in a season. The 23-year-old started like a train again this season before missing five games with a foot injury. Since returning in January he has scored six in 11 appearances, underwhelming by his standards, but the Norway hit man remains a heavy favourite to retain the Golden Boot.

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) – 19 goals in 32 appearances

Watkins is enjoying his most prolific season in the top flight, already surpassing his 15 goals from last season, while also providing the most assists (10) of those on this list. The 28-year-old’s current goal conversion rate is better than Haaland’s and he will be hoping to feature for England at the Euros.

Alexander Isak (Newcastle) – 17 goals in 24 appearances

Isak has more than justified Newcastle’s outlay of around £60million after a thigh injury limited his impact in his first campaign at St James’ Park. The 24-year-old is the first Newcastle player since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 to score 20 goals in a season for the club in all competitions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals in 26 appearances

Salah has won the Golden Boot on three occasions during his stellar Liverpool career and has scored 20 top-flight goals or more in four of his six previous seasons at the club. The Egypt forward is on course to make that five in seven.

Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) – 17 goals in 32 appearances

When Solanke struck the opener in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United he broke the record for the most Premier League goals scored in a single season by a Bournemouth player. The 26-year-old has produced his best form under Andoni Iraola and could force his way into England’s plans for the Euros.

Southgate’s sharp-shooters

Gareth Southgate must be filled with excitement when he looks at the top 10 scorers in the Premier League this season, with six England players on the list.

Palmer only made his England debut in November but his astonishing form for Chelsea must surely earn him a spot in the squad for this summer’s Euro 2024.

Watkins could find himself in a straight shoot-out with Ivan Toney for the spot as back-up striker to Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane, while Solanke has just one England cap to his name back in 2017.

Further down the scoring charts, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has enjoyed a stellar campaign with 15 goals while Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden has netted 10 goals since Christmas to take his tally to 14 overall.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, a certain starter for England in Germany injury permitting, also has 14 goals to further add to their firepower.

And when Kane’s 43 goals in all competitions for Bayern and Jude Bellingham’s 22 for Real Madrid are factored in, Southgate’s side are an exciting prospect.

Cole Palmer has joined Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League goal-scorer’s chart after adding four more to his tally in Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Everton.

The Chelsea midfielder surged alongside Manchester City goal machine Haaland in the race for the Golden Boot, with both players currently on 20 in the top flight this season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the top six contenders for the award as the 2023-24 Premier League campaign enters the run-in.

Golden Boot battle

Cole Palmer (Chelsea) – 20 goals in 28 appearances

The 21-year-old’s remarkable first season at Chelsea just keeps getting better. Palmer, who did not score a league goal for Manchester City, has notched 10 in his last five league matches, rocketing into Golden Boot contention.

Erling Haaland (Man City) – 20 goals in 26 appearances

Haaland set the Premier League ablaze in 2022-23, claiming a new record of 36 goals in a season. The 23-year-old started like a train again this season before missing five games with a foot injury. Since returning in January he has scored six in 11 appearances, underwhelming by his standards, but the Norway hit man remains a heavy favourite to retain the Golden Boot.

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) – 19 goals in 32 appearances

Watkins is enjoying his most prolific season in the top flight, already surpassing his 15 goals from last season, while also providing the most assists (10) of those on this list. The 28-year-old’s current goal conversion rate is better than Haaland’s and he will be hoping to feature for England at the Euros.

Alexander Isak (Newcastle) – 17 goals in 24 appearances

Isak has more than justified Newcastle’s outlay of around £60million after a thigh injury limited his impact in his first campaign at St James’ Park. The 24-year-old is the first Newcastle player since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 to score 20 goals in a season for the club in all competitions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals in 26 appearances

Salah has won the Golden Boot on three occasions during his stellar Liverpool career and has scored 20 top-flight goals or more in four of his six previous seasons at the club. The Egypt forward is on course to make that five in seven.

Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) – 17 goals in 32 appearances

When Solanke struck the opener in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United he broke the record for the most Premier League goals scored in a single season by a Bournemouth player. The 26-year-old has produced his best form under Andoni Iraola and could force his way into England’s plans for the Euros.

Southgate’s sharp-shooters

Gareth Southgate must be filled with excitement when he looks at the top 10 scorers in the Premier League this season, with six England players on the list.

Palmer only made his England debut in November but his astonishing form for Chelsea must surely earn him a spot in the squad for this summer’s Euro 2024.

Watkins could find himself in a straight shoot-out with Ivan Toney for the spot as back-up striker to Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane, while Solanke has just one England cap to his name back in 2017.

Further down the scoring charts, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has enjoyed a stellar campaign with 15 goals while Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden has netted 10 goals since Christmas to take his tally to 14 overall.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, a certain starter for England in Germany injury permitting, also has 14 goals to further add to England’s firepower.

And when Kane’s 43 goals in all competitions for Bayern and Jude Bellingham’s 22 for Real Madrid are factored in, Southgate’s side are an exciting prospect.

Chelsea pair Nicolas Jackson and Noni Madueke are not the first team-mates to clash on a football pitch.

Cole Palmer’s four-goal haul in the Blues’ 6-0 win over Everton on Monday was overshadowed by what boss Mauricio Pochettino called an “unacceptable” altercation over who should take a second-half penalty.

Palmer, the club’s designated penalty-taker, finally took charge, following intervention from captain Conor Gallagher, recovering his composure to score his fourth.

Jackson and Madueke follow a long line of club colleagues to have had a very public difference of opinion. Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some previous incidents.

Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer

Perhaps the classic of the genre, the Newcastle team-mates came to blows towards the end of a 3-0 home defeat by Aston Villa in April 2005, Dyer grabbing Bowyer by the throat and the pair trading punches before being separated by Villa’s Gareth Barry. Both men were dismissed by referee Barry Knight – defender Steven Taylor had earlier been sent off for handball – and later hauled before the media by manager Graeme Souness to apologise for their conduct.

Graeme Le Saux and David Batty

Blackburn’s Le Saux was left with a painful reminder of his bust-up with David Batty during a 3-0 Champions League defeat at Spartak Moscow in November 1995. Four minutes into the game, the pair collided as both tried to retrieve a Mike Newell pass and Batty made his displeasure abundantly clear. The row descended into a pushing match before Le Saux – he later insisted in self-defence – struck out, breaking his left hand during a scuffle in which intervening skipper Tim Sherwood took a blow to the cheek.

Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min

Tottenham keeper Lloris and striker Son became involved in a heated row on the pitch as the half-time whistle sounded in a 1-0 Premier League victory over Everton in July 2020. Lloris angrily confronted the South Korea international over his failure to track back and the pair had to be separated by team-mates Giovani Lo Celso and Harry Winks. The spat continued down the tunnel and into the dressing room, although the two men embraced after the final whistle.

Derek Hales and Mike Flanagan

Charlton strike partners Hales and Flanagan came to blows during an FA Cup tie against Maidstone in January 1979. The source of the spat was allegedly Flanagan reacting to Hales failing to pass to him by making a disparaging remark about his team-mate’s genitals. Both were sent off.

Craig Levein and Graeme Hogg

The Hearts duo became involved in a disagreement during a pre-season friendly at Raith in August 1994 after their side had almost conceded. Both men threw punches, but it was Levein’s which did the damage, breaking Hogg’s nose. He was sent off as he was being carried off on a stretcher with Levein suffering the same fate, and they were later handed 10 and 12-match bans respectively.

Cole Palmer is grateful for the opportunity Chelsea gave him to join the club after he celebrated successive home hat-tricks when he scored four times in the Blues’ 6-0 win over Everton.

The Manchester City academy graduate, who joined the Blues last summer, scored a spectacular individual goal to open the scoring.

Palmer scored a header and added a third when he capitalised on a Jordan Pickford error before converting a penalty in the second half. Nicolas Jackson and Alfie Gilchrist also got on the scoresheet as the Toffees came completely unstuck.

It was Palmer’s second home triple in a row, following his three goals against Manchester United earlier this month.

Palmer told Chelsea’s official website: “To make the decision to come to Chelsea was a big one for me and my family, but I just wanted to play football. I’m thankful to Chelsea for the opportunity and I’m buzzing.

“We started well and to score a hat-trick, I’m buzzing. I think the team needed that after last Sunday and some previous games. We did well tonight. It was a great game for the team and me.”

Palmer showed wonderful skill for his first goal after he jinked past Jarrad Branthwaite, receiving a flick-on from Jackson before he produced a first-time curled effort from outside the box into the bottom left-hand corner.

The 21-year-old added: “I think my first one was my favourite.

“My right-footed goal was a bit of a swinger, but my first one was probably my favourite. As an attacker, you always want to help the team with goals and assists, but my main focus was playing well and trying to get into the positions to score goals.”

Manager Mauricio Pochettino heaped praise on Palmer, who is now joint top in the Premier League’s Golden Boot race with Erling Haaland on 20 goals each.

He said: “I don’t judge the player when we sign (them) but I expected the best. It doesn’t surprise us, he’s a player who has had the capacity to score goals when he was playing at Manchester City. He has the capacity to score easily.

“The way he’s adapted, playing and performing is fantastic. He behaves like a top scorer and I think it’s amazing for the team and him.”

What the papers say

The Sun reports that Chelsea are seeking contract extensions for midfielder Enzo Fernandez and winger Mykhailo Mudryk. The two 23-year-olds’ previous long-term deals would be extended by another year.

The Daily Mail reports that Liverpool are considering Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson as a potential replacement for Caoimhin Kelleher.

According to the Telegraph, ex-Chelsea and Everton boss Frank Lampard has dropped out of the running to become the new head coach of Canada’s national team.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Tosin Adarabioyo: Tottenham have made an offer to the Fulham defender, says Teamtalk, as they try to beat Manchester United in the race to sign the 26-year-old.

Viktor Gyokeres: Manchester United are keen on the Sweden striker from Sporting Lisbon but fear Liverpool may scupper their signing chances, reports HITC.

Djed Spence: Tottenham’s 23-year-old right-back is one of several senior players expected to leave the club this summer, claims Football Insider.

Aston Villa were relegated from the Premier League following a 1-0 defeat away to Manchester United on this day in 2016.

Marcus Rashford’s 32nd-minute goal condemned Villa to the second tier of English football for the first time in 28 years.

Rudy Gestede hit the post with a volley late on but there was no delaying what was by then the inevitable.

It was a ninth straight defeat and 24th of the campaign for Villa in a dire season.

They would finish with only three wins and 17 points, half the tally of 19th-placed Norwich, and 22 points adrift of safety.

Villa, the 1982 European Cup winners, had been part of the Premier League since its inception and in the top flight since 1988.

But the 2015-16 season quickly turned into a horror show and they had been bottom of the table since the start of November.

Manager Remi Garde had left the previous month and Villa travelled to Old Trafford under the leadership of caretaker boss Eric Black, who never had any realistic hope of turning the tide as fans turned on the club’s American owner Randy Lerner.

At Old Trafford they were comfortably outplayed by Louis van Gaal’s United side, who were in a tight battle with neighbours City for fourth place and Champions League football – one in which they would ultimately come out second best on goal difference.

Villa spent the next three seasons in the Championship before returning to the top flight via the play-offs in 2019.

Cole Palmer’s four-goal haul in Chelsea’s thumping 6-0 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge was overshadowed by what Mauricio Pochettino called “unacceptable” behaviour as two of his players were involved in a physical altercation over who should take a penalty.

The home side were four goals up in the second half when Nicolas Jackson and Noni Madueke caused the unsavoury scene that left their manager feeling the need to apologise to fans watching the game around the world.

Palmer, the club’s appointed penalty taker, finally took charge following intervention from the captain Conor Gallagher, recovering his composure to score his fourth of the game and move on to 20 Premier League goals for the season.

“The players know, the club knows that Palmer is the penalty-taker,” said Pochettino, who was visibly agitated during his post-match duties.

“I’m so, so upset about the situation. In every country people are watching the game and we cannot send this type of image.

“I want to apologise to our fans. Discipline is the most important thing for the team. It’s a collective sport. I’m not going to accept this type of behaviour. I’m going to be very strong. I promise it’s not going to happen again.

“We need to move on and talk about the game – 6-0 against a very good team like Everton, clean sheet, I think we should be happy, no?”

In a debut season defined by individual excellence, the first half was superb, even by Palmer’s own exceptional standards.

His first goal alone was worthy of winning a Premier League match, nutmegging Jarrad Branthwaite before playing a neat one-two with Jackson, then curling the ball left-footed beyond the dive of Jordan Pickford.

His second was a poacher’s finish, reacting quickest to knock in the rebound after Jackson’s effort had been pushed out by the goalkeeper.

Everton were falling apart, a collapse encapsulated by Pickford’s error, playing the ball straight to Palmer to punt the ball into an empty net from 45 yards.

Jackson scored Chelsea’s fourth, hooking Marc Cucurella’s cross under control and guiding it home with a swing of the right boot.

Then came the sight of Jackson and Madueke pushing and shoving over a penalty awarded in the 63rd minute.

“We don’t talk about punishment,” said Pochettino. “It’s about learning. They are young guys. It was very good the reaction of Gallagher like a captain. But you cannot show that type of behaviour.

“The discipline is going to be stronger. If they behave like kids, it’s impossible. You cannot behave like kids. It’s a shame, it’s an unacceptable thing. We don’t deserve to be talking about this.”

At the end of an excellent display, academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist capped things off by firing home his first goal for the club in stoppage time.

Everton boss Sean Dyche, whose side sit just two points clear of the relegation zone, reflected on a “horrid” night for his team.

“It’s miles off where we want to be,” he said. “There’s no excuses for that. Miles off the mark, miles from where we’ve been.

“The goals were alarmingly poor. It’s just simple tackling, reading and anticipating the game. The basics were out the window. A horrid night without a shadow of a doubt.”

Cole Palmer became the Premier League’s joint-leading scorer this season as his four goals helped Chelsea crush hapless Everton 6-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The former Manchester City player now has 20 for the campaign and dismantled Sean Dyche’s side almost single-handedly, netting a hat-trick inside the first 29 minutes to breathe genuine momentum into his team’s bid to qualify for Europe.

This was as complete a first half as Chelsea have managed under Mauricio Pochettino, displaying a clinical edge in front of goal that made the insipid attacking displays of earlier in the season feel like a distant memory.

It was also a night for individuals. Moises Caicedo at the base of midfield gave a performance full of guile and maturity; rarely had he looked so in command in Chelsea colours.

Nicolas Jackson, who scored the fourth goal, and Mykhailo Mudryk were superb, further turning the tide of opinion in their favour after slow starts to their careers in blue.

Then there was Palmer, Chelsea’s talisman, who is surely now a contender to challenge his former Manchester City team-mate Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot.

This was not a perfect 90 minutes and there are still issues for Pochettino to address. When his team were given a penalty at 4-0 up in the second half, there was the unsavoury spectacle of a physical altercation as Jackson and Noni Madueke each tried to take the ball from the appointed taker Palmer. It pointed to a failure of discipline and leadership that the manager must surely address.

But it could not sour a fine night for home fans in west London, capped off fittingly when academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist fired in his first goal for the club in stoppage time.

Chelsea had started the game sluggishly, narrowly avoiding going behind after nine minutes when Beto missed the target from four yards.

As so often this season it required intervention from Palmer to shake them to life. Receiving the ball deep from Malo Gusto, he impudently nutmegged Jarrad Branthwaite, played a one-two with Jackson, then curled his finish wide of the dive of Jordan Pickford for his first goal of a remarkable first half.

Soon the floodgates were open. After 17 minutes, Mudryk was played in down the left by Jackson who, receiving it back from the Ukrainian, shot first time. Pickford beat the ball out, but only to the feet of the arriving Palmer who grabbed his second.

His finish for 3-0 was exquisite, but the opportunity came gift-wrapped from Pickford. The England goalkeeper tried to pick out Amadou Onana but came up short with his pass. In nipped Palmer and, undaunted by the 45-yard distance to goal, lobbed it into the net for his hat-trick.

Jackson made it four before the break, showing exquisite touch to drag Marc Cucurella’s cross out of the air before turning and guiding the ball beyond the goalkeeper’s grasp into the corner.

The 22-year-old has shown significant improvement in recent weeks, and his 13th goal of the season was surely his best so far for Chelsea.

Palmer argued away Jackson and Madueke to make it five from the penalty spot just past the hour mark, then Gilchrist drilled into the bottom corner from Pickford’s parry at the death, as Chelsea moved to within three points of the top six.

Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho has been spoken to by Erik ten Hag after the winger liked social media posts criticising the manager’s handling of the player.

The Argentinian, taken off at half-time of their 2-2 draw at Bournemouth, liked two messages on X, formerly Twitter, by YouTuber Mark Goldbridge.

One read: “Ten Hag subtly blaming Garnacho in the post match press conference… not a good look throwing a 19 year old under the bus who has actually delivered for you this season. But then again he’s clearly scared of upsetting the bigger earners.”

The other said Garnacho “had a poor first half but taking him off at half time and holding him up as the problem is a joke”.

Garnacho swiftly ‘unliked’ both messages – an action the club believes shows contrition – and a United source told the PA news agency the matter had been dealt with internally.

In September Jadon Sancho’s post on X, saying he had been made a “scapegoat” and “I will not allow people saying things that (are) completely untrue” – interpreted as accusing Ten Hag of misrepresenting reasons why the winger was not in the side – led to the 24-year-old being banished from the first team before being loaned to Borussia Dortmund in January.

Everton forward Dele Alli admits he was “overwhelmed” by the response to his emotional interview in which he confronted mental health issues relating to his troubled childhood.

Last summer the 28-year-old revealed he had been sexually abused as a six-year-old and fell into selling drugs aged just eight, leading to psychological problems later in life. He also opened up about a sleeping pill addiction which led to a stay at a rehab clinic.

“When I did the interview I said if I helped one person that’s all I needed,” Alli, speaking publicly for the first time since that interview, told Monday Night Football on Sky Sports.

“I had to do it for my own reasons, but if it helped one person that is all I wanted from it and the reaction and support I got was definitely overwhelming.

“But it was amazing to see how many people it did help and I’m definitely very proud of it.”

Alli said going public with his problems was part of a process that has enabled him to learn important lessons about himself, which have in turn helped him through a testing period of injury.

He has not played since a loan spell at Besiktas was cut short in February last year due to a hip problem and a groin issue has delayed his return to the Everton squad.

“When I did the interview I said it was the best I had felt at that time, coming out of rehab and getting back ready for playing,” he added.

“I’ve had to learn what patience is and it’s been a long journey with the injury, a lot of ups and downs, but it is something I’ve had to learn.

 

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“If you had asked me before, injuries would have been right at the top of my list to mentally overcome. Before this injury the longest one was eight weeks, which felt like forever.

“If I hadn’t gone through that process in the summer it would have been so difficult for me to go through this for over a year now.

“It is just an injury and hopefully one I’m getting to the end of. The pain of the injury is something I can really channel and help motivate me.

“I really had to learn what patience is, but it has made me hungrier to get back in.”

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