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Matchday Wrap Up

WK37: Title race stumble

by Galin Dragiev
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

Just two weeks left in the Premier League and the action has been better than ever.  This week saw several matches that went down to the wire that all had a huge impact on the title and relegation races.  Let’s look at all the matches that had a big impact.


The first important match was Manchester United – Sunderland.  Sunderland needed the win to create separation from the relegation zone and they went to Old Trafford determined to get the three points.  The expectation was that United will put in another impressive performance under Ryan Giggs, but that was far from the truth.  The Black Cats took the lead 30 minutes in when red hot Connor Wickham whipped in a cross from near the corner flag and Sebastian Larsson finished easily.  After that, Sunderland controlled the game and created more chances.  Fabio Borini has been playing great and he hit a wonderful shot that struck the crossbar.  Vito Mannone was also on top of his game and he ensured that any Manchester attack remained goalless.  Now that the weekend is done, Sunderland are two points ahead of Norwich and have two games left.  Norwich only have one match remaining.  All the Black Cats need are one draw from their last two matches and they will be safe from relegation due to their superior goal difference.


At the same time, Fulham and Cardiff City were both beaten by three goals and mathematically relegated.  Stoke City beat Fulham 4 – 1 and Newcastle came back from a huge losing streak to beat Cardiff 3 – 0.  If anything, Newcastle’s huge win shows how bad Cardiff really are.  Both Fulham and Cardiff deserve to go down after failing to produce anything that remotely looks like Premier League football in the past few months. 


Next up was Everton – Manchester City.  This was considered the biggest obstacle in Manchester’s title charge.  Everton took an early lead through a spectacular Ross Barkley goal but Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko combined for three goals to ensure City won all three points.  Romelu Lukaku made it 2-3 midway through the second half but City held on late to ensure they are still the favorites to win the title.  If this match was any indication, the rest of City’s matches are a must watch.  It was exciting from start to finish and the Manchester side will be just as determined in their next two matches in order to win it all.  The bad news for them is that Sergio Aguero limped off with another muscular injury.  He tweeted out that it was just a precautionary move, but keep an eye out for his status before the last week of the season.


With Everton losing, a big race was decided.  Everton and Arsenal were in a battle for the last top four spot in the Premier League but Arsenal is now mathematically safe to finish fourth.  What this means is that Everton and Arsenal could play the last match of the season safe and rest star players.  Arsenal have the FA Cup final coming up and will surely want to play their best squad there and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them rest at least three or four of their players.  Everton don’t have any matches outside of their last Premier League match, but if anyone is sick or slightly injured, don’t be surprised to see them out.  This is also a great time to test a few youth players, so I would avoid Everton and Arsenal players in fantasy leagues for the final week of the season.


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Sunday was just as important in the title race.  Chelsea stumbled as they failed to beat an extremely poor Norwich side that is fighting the relegation battle.  Jose Mourinho chose to start Eden Hazard on the bench after the two had a disagreement earlier in the week and the move proved to be a mistake.  Chelsea never broke down Norwich, just like they failed to break down several other weak clubs this season, and their search for a striker will be their most important decision of the summer.  With this result, Chelsea now need Liverpool to draw or lose their final match and they need Manchester City to draw one and lose one of their final two for them to have a chance of winning the title.  Simply said, it’s as good as done.


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On Monday, things got even better.  Liverpool was cruising to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace and they were going forward in an attempt to score more goals.  The idea was that they could potentially catch up to Manchester City in goal difference if they win their last two matches by a huge margin but the plan backfired when they forgot to defend.  In a matter of 10 minutes, Crystal Palace scored three goals that comprised one of the biggest comebacks in Premier League history.  In those 10 minutes, Liverpool saw their title hopes evaporate.  Luis Suarez was seen crying his eyes out at the end of the match, and you can’t blame him.  They were that close. 


With three matches left, Liverpool just had to draw Chelsea and win their last two matches to win their first ever Premier League title.  They were beaten by Chelsea and then embarrassed by Crystal Palace to see their title chances diminish to less than 10% based on many statistical models.  This match was as crazy as the title race has been this year and considering how many turns and twists we’ve seen, it simply can’t be over just yet.   Make sure you tune in on Wednesday to see Manchester City try to get a big lead on the title race and then tune in over the weekend for a fantastic set of games to finish off the season.

Galin Dragiev
Galin Dragiev is a Rotoworld contributor that focuses on Daily Fantasy Soccer and contributes for a number of outlets in the industry. You can find him on Twitter at @GalinDragiev.