There’s still much to play for at both ends of the table in the final round of fixtures on Sunday
The 2019-20 Premier League season will forever be remembered by those who followed its twisting plot twists and mesmerising subplots.
Of course, the three-month pause due to the global health crisis casts a shadow over the campaign, but Liverpool’s record-breaking title triumph, Sheffield United’s heroics and a series of outstanding individual performers will ensure this campaign is never forgotten.
While the Reds wrapped up their title success with plenty of football still to be played, there are still issues to be resolved at both ends of the table, with both Champions League qualification and relegation to be decided on the final day.
While Liverpool and Manchester City have both booked their places in next year’s Champions League, the second and third places are still up for grabs.
United are away at Leicester on the final day, while Chelsea host Wolverhampton Wanderers as they look to get over the line.
Most impressive since lockdown have been Manchester United – they’re still unbeaten in the league since late January, but weaknesses have begun to appear in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Most notably, the form of goalkeeper David de Gea has been concerning; the stopper has appeared nervy in recent fixtures, and was at fault for two of Chelsea’s goals in their 3-1 humbling of the Red Devils in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
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The Norwegian coach resisted the temptation to drop the Spaniard for the Premier League draw against West Ham United, but he remains a point of weakness that the Foxes may look to exploit.
Just ahead of him, questions are also being asked of Harry Maguire—so often a rock at the back for United this season—who struggled throughout against Chelsea and scored an own goal.
He’ll surely be motivated to end the season strongly against his former club, but having looked heavy-legged in recent fixtures, he will be tested by the pace and movement of Jamie Vardy.
United’s attacking unit—Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Marcus Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes—have been their key asset during the latter part of the campaign, but even they have appeared leggy and jaded in recent fixtures.
Solskjaer may well be harbouring concerns ahead of the rest of their Europa League campaign, but can his fab four rouse themselves for this final day hurdle?
De Gea , Manchester United 2020
If United can avoid defeat, they will be guaranteed a top-four finish. If Leicester win and Chelsea avoid defeat at home against Wolves, however, the Red Devils would finish fifth.
Frank Lampard’s side may well be relieved that, unlike United, they’re not up against one of their direct Champions League rivals on the final day, however, they have a brittleness of their own which can be exposed by Wolves.
Certainly, the Old Gold will surely be relishing coming up against Chelsea’s backline after seeing how they were savaged by Liverpool on Wednesday evening.
Admittedly, the Reds have a near unparalleled wealth of attacking options, but the same defensive failings that have failed Lampard’s backline over and over again returned as the champions ran out 5-3 winners.
Expect goals aplenty when these two collide, and while Chelsea will know that a draw is enough to reach the Champions League, they cannot rest on their laurels considering how fragile their backline is.
Wolves have impressed going forward—notably as they thumped Everton 3-0 recently—and it will be fascinating to see how much trouble the likes of Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez can cause for that Blues backline.
As well as the race for the top four, the battle to remain in the division will also be one of the key focuses of Sunday’s action.
Recent victories over Norwich City and Newcastle United gave Watford hope of beating the drop, but the bizarre decision to sack Nigel Pearson, coupled with the 4-0 defeat by Manchester City earlier this week mean they head into the final day in 18th.
They’re away against Arsenal, and must beat Villa’s own result away at West Ham United in order to remain in the division.
If both teams draw, or register the same result, then the Midlanders would advance on goal difference, although with only one goal in it (+26 vs +27) it’s all to play for for both of these beleaguered sides.
Then there’s Bournemouth, who are down in 19th heading into their away game at Everton.
Their situation is bleak, and they must win to stand a chance of survival, but any victory would mean survival if both Villa and Watford lose.