Premier League: 10 things to look out for on final day of the season

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·9-min read
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<span>Composite: Getty Images</span>
Composite: Getty Images

1) Will City pay penalty on final day?

This season’s final-day title battle will have an air of familiarity as Manchester City look to pip Liverpool to the post for the third time in the last decade. Steven Gerrard will be in the opposition dugout at the stadium where the greatest finale of all played out 10 years ago. Folklore is in the air, but Pep Guardiola might feel frustrated that it has come to this. City could have few complaints with their draw at West Ham, digging in to rescue a vital point after a disastrous first half – but had Riyad Mahrez scored his late penalty, Liverpool would have been left needing snookers. Lukasz Fabianski’s fine save should not be overlooked, but the outcome highlights a curious weakness in Guardiola’s attacking machine. In the six seasons since he took charge, City have scored 34 of 50 spot-kicks awarded – the worst conversion rate among the ‘big six’ clubs. Even Sergio Agüero was guilty of the odd aberration but since his departure, Guardiola has struggled to settle on a penalty taker. Erling Haaland will bring a 92% success rate with him next season, but for now, City fans will hope another late spot-kick is not required. NMc

  • Manchester City v Aston Villa, Sunday 4pm

2) Wolves bid to bite back at Anfield

While much of the attention will be focused on a certain match 36 miles down the M62, it is imperative that Liverpool’s players beat Wolves so they can capitalise on any slip-ups by Manchester City against Aston Villa and win the title courtesy of what would be a seismic final-day overhaul. It was courtesy of a late mugging that Liverpool won the points in the corresponding fixture at Molineux in December, with Divock Origi winning it four minutes into added time, sparking wild celebrations among his teammates. Wolves may have nothing but wounded pride to play for on Sunday, but revenge will be on their minds and is a dish famously best served cold. A similarly spirited rearguard action from Bruno Lage’s men on Merseyside could cause plenty of problems. BG

  • Liverpool v Wolves, Sunday 4pm

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3) Leeds to take Bamford gamble?

Leeds almost certainly need to beat Brentford in west London while hoping Newcastle can do them a favour by taking points off Burnley. In December the two sides fought out a four-goal thriller at Elland Road, with Patrick Bamford snatching a late equaliser for Leeds. With five of the Leeds starting eleven that started that game out on Sunday through injury or suspension the odds seem stacked against Jesse Marsch’s side, while Bamford is reported to be “touch and go” having not played since mid-March. Playing the striker in such a massive game would constitute a massive gamble for the American but with so much at stake it may be one he is prepared to take. BG

  • Brentford v Leeds United, Sunday 4pm

Leeds fans will head to Brentford on the final day with their team in the bottom three.
Leeds fans will head to Brentford on the final day with their team in the bottom three. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/Shutterstock

4) Lads, it’s …

Perhaps only a salmonella-infused lasagna can stop Tottenham taking their place in next season’s Champions League. Memories of final-day collapses that ended up favouring Arsenal may still be foremost in Spurs’ fans minds. That infamous May 2006 afternoon when illness wracked the squad and thus allowed Arsenal to creep into fourth place comes to mind. So does the final day of the 2015-16 season, when Spurs, Leicester’s closest challengers in the run-in, lost 5-1 at Newcastle to let Arsenal into second place. That day, like Sunday, Tottenham were facing an already-relegated club so the portents for another disaster are there. Spurs were a little shaky against Burnley last Sunday, though their turnaround time after beating Arsenal had admittedly been short. Norwich, with one win since January and relegated for weeks now, will surely not offer up anything like the same resistance, or play like Rafa Benítez’s Newcastle did six years ago. JB

  • Norwich City v Tottenham, Sunday 4pm

5) Post-match snaps spell Burnley danger

Newcastle players currently have the air about them of a team that just love playing football together, particularly in the newly vibrant cauldron that is St James’ Park. Ahead of a summer rich with promise, their final game of the season is against a Burnley side that continues to stare into the abyss. Given their vastly superior goal difference, Burnley only have to match whatever result Leeds get at Brentford to stay up. A win will guarantee them survival. Eddie Howe’s side began their revival with a narrow win over what was then Sean Dyche’s team at St James’ Park.It prompted raucous celebrations and they have since strengthened their squad considerably. Should Newcastle’s players assemble for another post-match victory snap at around 6pm on Sunday, the scenes in Burnley’s dressing-room could be of utter desolation. BG

  • Burnley v Newcastle, Sunday 4pm

6) Ten Hag to take first look at United

And so Manchester United’s worst-ever Premier League season reaches its end. Even if it seemed like their players downed tools some weeks ago, Ralf Rangnick unable to effect change, there is still something to play for. Should United lose at Selhurst Park and West Ham win at Brighton then the Uefa Conference League, rather than the Europa League, will beckon. Even a draw might not be enough, as United have an inferior goal difference to the Hammers. Should Palace win by a margin of more than two goals, then United would end the season on a negative goal difference for the first time since the 1989-90 season, when they at least could say they concentrated on winning the FA Cup. Erik ten Hag will be in attendance, having pulled out of Ajax’s Caribbean post-season trip to Curaçao to try and get a head start on trying to regenerate a bedevilled institution. JB

  • Crystal Palace v Manchester United, Sunday 4pm

Erik ten Hag has traded a Caribbean holiday for a trip to Selhurst Park.
Erik ten Hag has traded a Caribbean holiday for a trip to Selhurst Park. Photograph: Olaf Kraak/EPA

7) Arsenal look elsewhere for salvation

While Arsenal appeared to blow any hopes reeling in Spurs in the race for fourth place with back-to-back losses, they go into the final day clinging to the hope that Tottenham’s innate “Spursiness” will somehow prevail at Norwich, costing Antonio Conte’s side the point they need. In such a scenario, it should be remembered that Arsenal’s inherent “Arsenalness” could also stop them taking advantage by failing to beat an Everton side that secured safety on Thursday. It is a preposterously unlikely turn of events but one that shouldn’t be ruled out given the propensity of both to blunderbuss themselves repeatedly in the feet. Mikel Arteta’s side found themselves the subjects of much mockery and mirth following three consecutive defeats at the beginning of this season before hitting their stride. Should they conclude the campaign with three more, an accompanying Spurs defeat at Carrow Road would render them an international laughing stock. BG

  • Arsenal v Everton, Sunday 4pm

8) End-of-season Blues at the Bridge

Stamford Bridge signs off for the summer amid deep uncertainty. Even if Todd Boehly’s takeover has been franked officially by then, supporters will still be none the wiser over what the future may bring. The most that is known is that the American would preside over a very different regime than Roman Abramovich, the Russian lionised among a vocal rump of supporters. Andreas Christensen’s ostracising by Thomas Tuchel after making himself unavailable for last weekend’s FA Cup final did not suggest a happy camp behind the scenes. Antonio Rüdiger will wave his goodbyes and fans and media alike will look for signs in the post-match lap of appreciation for whether other players expect to be around next season. Those under scrutiny will include César Azpilicueta, despite an extension being triggered, and Romelu Lukaku, whose Wembley display suggested he mightbe the greatest transfer bust of the entire Abramovich era. JB

  • Chelsea v Watford, Sunday 4pm

Will Romelu Lukaku stick around at Chelsea after a disappointing season?
Will Romelu Lukaku stick around at Chelsea after a disappointing season? Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

9) Hammers show way for ‘Expected Gulls’

There are bigger prizes up for grabs elsewhere, but a home win could lift Brighton up to eighth – and Graham Potter’s side are surely on course to seal their best-ever top-flight position. Last season, Potter’s “Expected Gulls” set a new benchmark for missed chances – finishing 16th despite a top-six expected points total. This season, they are just three points off that metric mark and beginning to turn expectation into reality. Sunday’s opponents offer Brighton the perfect example of how to not only match expectations but surpass them. West Ham will be back in Europe next season, with only their entry tier to be decided on Sunday. Finishing above Manchester United might also strengthen their position as they bid to convince their midfield linchpin, Declan Rice, that nowhere else can offer him a brighter long-term future. NMc

  • Brighton v West Ham, Sunday 4pm

10) Midfield maestros meet in dead rubber

Southampton end their season at the King Power with nothing significant to play for – that may come as a relief after a run of one win in 11 league games left them stumbling to the 40-point mark. During their post-Christmas surge, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side threatened to challenge for Europe, but after that peak came a familiar trough. Leicester have also been dogged by inconsistency – avoid defeat here, and they will match their record unbeaten run this season at four games. Whatever the outcome, there’s a good chance the standout player will be an English midfielder called James; both Maddison and Ward-Prowse have impressed in mediocre campaigns for their season. Leicester’s player of the season must surely be back on Gareth Southgate’s radar, but his Southampton counterpart is one of the players standing in his way. NMc

  • Leicester City v Southampton, Sunday 4pm

Pos

Team

P

GD

Pts

1

Man City

37

72

90

2

Liverpool

37

66

89

3

Chelsea

37

42

71

4

Tottenham Hotspur

37

24

68

5

Arsenal

37

9

66

6

Man Utd

37

1

58

7

West Ham

37

11

56

8

Wolverhampton

37

-3

51

9

Leicester

37

0

49

10

Brighton

37

-4

48

11

Brentford

37

-7

46

12

Newcastle

37

-19

46

13

Crystal Palace

37

3

45

14

Aston Villa

37

-1

45

15

Southampton

37

-21

40

16

Everton

37

-19

39

17

Burnley

37

-18

35

18

Leeds

37

-38

35

19

Watford

37

-42

23

20

Norwich

37

-56

22

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