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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 24 October 2020

Man United need Swansea favour and more Premier League talking points

Plus, how Liverpool and West Ham could have to face off in a Europa League play-off.

Man United are two points behind City with one game to play.
Man United are two points behind City with one game to play.
Image: Tim Ireland

1. Thrilling season set for anti-climactic end?

2015-16 WILL CERTAINLY go down as one of most entertaining and unpredictable seasons ever.

Few would have expected the rise of Tottenham and Leicester, or the dramatic collapse of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

The underdogs’ triumph at the expense of the big teams has breathed some much-needed life into the league, after Chelsea strolled to the title last season.

However, for all the drama that’s occurred, the final day looks set to be a damp squib.

The final Champions League spot and at a stretch, the race for second, will keep some fans from tuning out, but if the rest of the season is anything to go by, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of a shock occurring in either situation.

2. Man United need big favour from Swansea

Following their damaging loss to West Ham on Tuesday, Man United have been left needing a minor miracle to secure a Champions League spot this Sunday.

While there was good news on their off-field exploits this week, a further season without Champions League football would be a big blow to the Red Devils while casting further doubt on manager Louis van Gaal’s future.

Man United can take comfort from the fact that they have six wins from their last seven games at Old Trafford, meaning they are expected to avenge last December’s surprise 2-1 loss to Bournemouth on Sunday.

However, even if Van Gaal’s men beat the Cherries, anything other than a Swansea victory over fourth-place Man City will consign them to the dubious honour of Europa League football next season.

3. Tottenham fans face nervy wait

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League - Britannia Stadium Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

May 1995 was the last time Tottenham finished above Arsenal in the Premier League.

The Gunners have become so accustomed to finishing above Spurs since Arsene Wenger took charge that they now have created am occasion to celebrate the increasingly regular achievement – St Totteringham’s Day.

Yet to prevent this impressive record from ending on Sunday, Arsenal need to beat Aston Villa, while also hoping Spurs lose at Newcastle.

Given how Villa’s season has panned out, an Arsenal win at the Emirates looks a formality, but with the Magpies probably still demoralised from their midweek relegation, a win against Tottenham is surely too much to ask, despite Mauricio Pochettino’s side looking susceptible to big-match nervousness in the recent past.

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4. Aston Villa wave goodbye to Premier League football

It’s been a truly ignominious season for Aston Villa — a club with a proud footballing history, who were one of the 12 original members of the football league, with the club finishing second at the end of the inaugural 1888-89 season.

In recent years, Villa have gradually descended into their current disastrous situation, finally enduring their first relegation from the top-flight since 1987 recently, after a couple of near misses in previous seasons.

Eric Black’s side drew 0-0 with Newcastle last week to avoid a 12th successive league defeat, but the statistics still look fairly grim from the embattled club’s perspective.

The Birmingham-based side have won just three matches all season — only Derby in 2007-08 have a worse record in Premier League history — while they haven’t won away since the opening day against Bournemouth.

This record is unlikely to be improved amid a tricky final-day encounter at Arsenal, who still will be hoping to leapfrog rivals Tottenham into second.

The performances of Irish teenage defender Kevin Toner have been one consolation in recent weeks amid an awful season for the Villains, as the club look to build for a challenging season in the Championship next year.

5. Liverpool and West Ham could face Europa League play-off

The European places are still to be decided upon, and one possible scenario could even see West Ham and Liverpool face off in a Europa League play-off, a Premier League spokesperson has confirmed.

There is a chance that both sides could end the season level on points with identical goal difference and goals scored, though a play-off would only be needed if Liverpool are beaten by Sevilla in this year’s Europa League final, with the Anfield club set to fail in their bid for Champions League football should that result occur.

For the play-off situation to come to fruition, West Ham would also need to lose 1-0 to Stoke, while Liverpool would need to beat West Brom 2-1, in addition to Southampton failing to beat Palace. Alternatively, it could also happen if the Hammers lose 2-1 and the Reds win 3-2, or a 3-2 loss combined with a 4-3 win and so on.

Meanwhile, the fifth-place Premier League side is guaranteed a Europa League place, while if Capital One Cup winners Man City come fourth, the sixth-place team will get a spot in the competition and if Man United win the FA Cup, the seventh-place side will also qualify.

Premier League fixtures (all games kick-off at 3pm on Sunday).

Arsenal v Aston Villa, Chelsea v Leicester, Everton v Norwich, Manchester United v Bournemouth, Newcastle v Tottenham, Southampton v Crystal Palace, Stoke v West Ham, Swansea v Manchester City, Watford v Sunderland, West Brom v Liverpool.

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Paul Fennessy

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