I think we can give Chelsea the Premier League but the race for a top four finish and qualification for the Champions League is still in the melting pot. Tottenham look home and hosed but then it’s any two from four fighting for places in the premier European competition. Two of those sides are live on television this weekend and they can both win on the road to stay in the mix.
Manchester United have two routes into the Champions League. They can make the tournament for next season through their league position or by winning the Europa League. In the last week for the first time bookmakers believe the second route is the most likely option. That assessment coincided with Jose Mourinho resting players for league fixtures so he can send out the best team possible in Europe.
United are one of the footballing superpowers that can absorb the financial implications of not playing in the Champions League in the short term. However, that situation is not sustainable and a third campaign not playing with the elite will start affecting the bottom line. The minimum requirement for Mourinho this season is making the Champions League but doing that via domestic football is becoming increasingly unlikely.
United have now drawn 9 of 16 home league fixtures which equates to 18 points dropped. That run includes fixtures at Old Trafford in the last week against West Brom and Everton. On many other days one point would have been three points but there is now a definite trend. Visiting teams now think they have a chance of avoiding defeat at the Theatre of Dreams. United have scored just 21 goals in those 16 matches and that is well under par for a top four team.
The Manchester club have now picked up 27 points at their own ground and on the road. They have scored one more goal on their travels and have the third best away record in the league, after Chelsea and Manchester City. Old Trafford is clearly not the fortress of old and Everton deserved their point. Granted Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a good goal ruled out for offside and then scored the equaliser from a penalty in Fergie Time. Everton had less possession and chances but looked dangerous on the break.
United visit Sunderland today and will be reacquainted with their old boss, David Moyes. He has had a lot on his mind this week in a media furore. It’s fair to say he made a mistake and it didn’t look good but now is the time to focus on the football. Lets not forget Sunderland are bottom of the Premier League and Moyes is in trouble and could be asked to leave a job for the third time. Relegation could be the end so maybe Moyes should take time out. I don’t think he should join the diplomatic corps.
Sunderland have been all over the papers and news this week for a non-footballing issue but that doesn’t hide the fact they are in the relegation mire. They are 10 points from safety with eight matches to play. They will probably need at least five wins but that is their tally of victories to date in 30 matches so they are facing the nightmare scenario of a drop into the Championship. They have lost eight of 15 home league matches and that total will increase when Man United are in town.
The away day double should be completed when Arsenal visit Crystal Palace on Monday evening. Sam Allardyce has got them organised but relegation is still an issue. However, there are three poorer teams in the league so Palace should keep their Premier League status. Arsenal are in a state of flux over the future of Arsene Wenger but he should look more secure after a win on the road at Palace. No team has won fewer points at their own stadium this season than the hosts.
Everton could still have a say in the top 4 issue but they are ten points behind Manchester City who currently occupy fourth place. Everton were seconds away from beating Manchester United this week but were poor and very much second best against Liverpool at Anfield last weekend. However, they should have enough to beat Leicester at Goodison Park. The champions are now safe from the drop but have huge ties in the Champions League on the horizon. A home win looks the most likely outcome of this fixture.