Week 25 of the English Premier League sees Leicester plunge deeper into crisis, Chelsea held at Burnley, and Spurs failing to capitalise.
Chelsea has now drawn two and lost one of their past six Premier League games. It’s hardly the form of a team flying along with a broken wing, but it as allowed the chasing pack the opportunity to close the gap; an opportunity that none of has taken.
Chelsea didn’t register a single shot on target in the second half against Burnley – that’s how good Sean Dyche’s men were in their 1-1 draw. Match of the Day pundit, Martin Keown, even put Dyche up there with Conte as the ‘two best managers in the Premier League.’
It was a difficult day for the champions-to-be. Only Chelsea and Spurs have better home records than Burnley. It snowed, it blustered, and the coddled stars of Chelsea complained about the state of the pitch. But despite that Pedro opened the scoring in the seventh minute with his sixth Premier League goal of the season. It was the first time Burnley had conceded at home in five games.
But Burnley came into this tie having won their previous four home games. Chelsea players complained about Burnley’s ‘long ball’ tactics, but there nothing ‘long ball’ about the equaliser – Robbie Brady curling home a superlative free kick to equalise in the 24th minute. Burnley should have won the match, but Andre Gray failed to convert after Ashley Barnes put him through on goal in a second half they controlled.
So Chelsea dropped two points but still moved a point clear of the rest of the hungry hippos. Spurs could have closed the gap to six points had they won at Liverpool, but the pressure got to them. They were awful in a match that Liverpool dominated.
Jurgen Klopp’s side’s recent run of poor form coincided with Sadio Mane’s omission due to his involvement in the African Nations Cup. His performance against Spurs was his first start since returning, and he sealed it with a brace to give Liverpool a comfortable victory. In truth, Spurs were lucky to escape by a two-goal margin.
Liverpool’s win means the fight for a Champions League place is as tight as ever. There are only two points separating Spurs in second spot, and Man Utd in sixth after Arsenal and United both took three points in home games against Hull and Watford respectively. Man City can reduce the gap between them and Chelsea to eight points if they beat Bournemouth on Monday night.
The bookies still have Sunderland (1/4), Crystal Palace (8/11), and Hull (5/6) as odds-on favourites for relegation, but I only think they have two of the three correct.
Crystal Palace will go down. Big Sam will fail to keep them in the top flight. The Eagles are playing more like Sparrows. There is no bite, no desire, and most confusing of all, no shape. Their 1-0 loss to Stoke, thanks to a smart finish from Joe Allen was a predictable result. Palace has now lost five of their past six Premier League games without scoring a single goal.
Sunderland will finally join them. The team who perennially lives in and around the Premier League bottom three confused everyone by pissing on the momentum they gathered with their 4-0 trouncing of Sunderland, losing by the same margin to fellow strugglers Southampton. Manolo Gabbiadini was the difference between the two sides with a brace. They were the Italians third goals in two matches since his club record £15m move from Napoli.
The one I think the bookies has wrong is Hull. The Tigers may have lost against Arsenal by 2-0, but they controlled the match with 51% possession and a glut of chances. Marco Silva has pumped new life into their lungs, and despite losing Robert Snodgrass to West Ham, Lazar Markovic and Oumar Niasse look like to add that extra bit of quality that Hull needs to stay up.
The biggest concern has to be the drop in the form of Leicester. They are a 7/4 shot to go down; incredible when you consider they won the thing less than 12-months ago. And yet rewind a further 12-months and there they were in the same position needing a last minute injection of something to escape relegation.
Alfie Mawson and Martin Olsson sealed the points for the Welsh side in the first 45-minutes. Paul Clement’s team has now won four of his six matches since taking control of the club from Bob Bradley. Leicester, on the other hand, remains the only English football club in all divisions yet to register a win in 2017, and they are the first Champions to lose five on the spin since the 1950s.
Can the unthinkable happen?
It happened in 2015 when they escaped relegation.
It happened in 2016 when they won the league.
Of course, it can happen.
Here are the rest of the weekend’s results.
Premier League Results (Week 25)
Arsenal 2 v 0 Hull
Stoke 1 v 0 Crystal Palace
Man Utd 2 v 0 Watford
Middlesbrough 0 v 0 Everton
West Ham 2 v 2 West Brom
Sunderland 0 v 4 Southampton
Liverpool 2 v 0 Spurs
Burnley 1 v 1 Chelsea
Swansea 2 v 0 Leicester
To be Played (Mon, 13 Feb)
Bournemouth v Man City
Premier League Table
1. Chelsea – 60
2. Spurs – 50
3. Arsenal – 50
4. Liverpool – 49
5. Man City – 49
6. Man Utd – 48
7. Everton – 37
8. West Brom – 37
9. Stoke – 32
10. West Ham – 32
11. Southampton – 30
12. Burnley – 30
13. Watford – 30
14. Bournemouth – 26
15. Swansea – 24
16. Middlesbrough – 22
17. Leicester – 21
18. Hull – 20
19. Crystal Palace – 19
20. Sunderland – 19
Premier League Title Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Man City +1000
Man Utd +4000