It is finally here guys and gals, week 38, the curtain closer for the 2012/2013 season. Manchester United have been crowned champions for the 20th time, while Wigan, QPR and Reading have all been relegated to the Championship. Manchester City have confirmed a second place finish and an automatic spot in next years Champions League, though the positions of the next three teams behind them has yet to be decided with only three points separating Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
Chelsea and Arsenal could fight it out in play-off
The Premier League has confirmed that there could be a third place play-off between Chelsea and Arsenal at the end of the season.
Arsenal will favor this more than Chelsea. (Getty Images)
Chelsea currently sit just two points above Arsenal in the EPL in third place, but a 0-0 draw for the Blues on the last day of the season coupled with a 2-1 win for Arsenal would see both teams level on points, goal difference and goals scored.
The EPL is currently designated four champion League spots, but only the top three sides qualify automatically with fourth place facing European opposition in the third and final qualifying round.
Premier League rules state: “If at the end of the season… the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, timing and venue of which shall be determined by the board.”
Both Chelsea and Arsenal face tough games on the final day of the season, with Chelsea hosting Everton, and Arsenal traveling to Newcastle.
Asked about the prospect of playing Chelsea in a play-off, Wenger said: “I would fancy that, but a play-off only exists if we win at Newcastle, so we have to win the game and see what happens.”
Arsenal know a win will guarantee them a top four finish and Champions League qualification for the 16th consecutive season in the process. But anything less and Tottenham could snatch fourth place from their north London rivals with a win.
“The biggest task is to win the game and not speculate too much on what happens after,” said Wenger. “The first compulsory part is winning our game.”
Frank Lampard signs one-year extension
Frank Lampard has signed a one-year extension with Chelsea, a day after the Club won the Europa Cup.
Frank Lampard set a new all-time scoring record for a Chelsea player this season. (Getty Images)
Lampard, who’s contract had been due to expire in June, had been linked with a move away from the London Club with Manchester United, LA Galaxy, and a range of other clubs all mentioned as possible destinations.
However, the 34-year old midfielder put pen to paper just a day after captaining Chelsea to their second successive European trophy.
“I’m absolutely delighted. Everybody knows I always maintained the dream to stay,” the 34-year-old said.
“I want to thank Mr Abramovich for making the dream a reality. I love this club, the staff, the players and especially the supporters.”
Lampard joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2001 for £11m. He has made 607 appearances for the West London side and became the clubs all-time top scorer last week with a brace against Aston Villa, overtaking Bobby Tambling’s 202-goal record.
Stoke to investigate pig head prank
Stoke are to conduct an internal investigation after a pig’s head was apparently left in the locker of striker Kenwyne Jones at the club’s training ground.
Trinidad and Tobago International Jones was reported to be incensed by the prank, which comes just two days before the club’s final Premier League match of the season at Southampton.
“A full internal investigation will be carried out,” said a club statement.
“Those responsible for any unacceptable behavior will be dealt with by the club’s disciplinary procedures.”
Stoke players are guilty of taking their pranks a tad too far. (Getty Images)
Stoke Manager Steve Pulis was quick to play down the incident though. Speaking to the BBC, Pulis said: “We have a smashing dressing room, and there are four or five lads who are always up to something,”
“There is always banter going on. I honestly don’t know what’s gone on this morning, I’ve missed all of what’s happened. I try to stay away from the home dressing room as much as I possibly can. I let the lads get on with it.”
“We will look at it tomorrow, I will have a chat with the lads and find out exactly what has happened. From that point onwards we’ll let everybody know exactly what the situation was.”
U.S. midfielder Brek Shea had earlier tweeted a picture of himself with the pig’s head and the words “locker room banter gone wild”.
While earlier this week, 28-year-old Jones tweeted a picture of Michael Owen’s car covered in eggs and flour by team-mates with the explanation that it was a “leaving present” for the former England star.
I guess what’s goes around comes around.
Predictions and Previews
|Aston Villa v Chelsea
|Man City v Wigan (FA Cup final)
|Stoke v Tottenham
|Everton v West Ham
|Fulham v Liverpool
|Norwich v West Brom
|QPR v Newcastle
|Sunderland v Southampton
|Man Utd v Swansea
|Arsenal v Wigan
|Reading v Man City
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a perfect score earns THREE points.
Last week I got EIGHT correct results, including Three perfect scores, giving me a record breaking tally of 14-points.
Lets see if I can go out with a bang and beat that tally in the final weekend of EPL games. Just about everything has been decided, that is everything bar the last two Champions League spaces, so all eyes will be upon Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham as the 2012-2013 season draws to a close.
|Chelsea v Everton
|Liverpool v QPR
|Man City v Norwich
|Newcastle v Arsenal
|Southampton v Stoke
|Swansea v Fulham
|Tottenham v Sunderland
|West Brom v Man Utd
|West Ham v Reading
|Wigan v Aston Villa
Chelsea v Everton
This is the last game of the season for both managers—Blues boss Rafael Benitez ends his interim period in charge, while Toffees Manager David Moyes leaves for Old Trafford after 11 years in charge of Everton—so they will both be desperate to leave on a high note.
Everton may spoil Chelsea’s party after their midweek Europa League title. (Getty Images)
Chelsea may be guaranteed a top-four finish, but anything less than a win against Everton could see Arsenal leapfrog them into third—meaning Chelsea would have to enter the third qualifying round of the Champions League—so expect them to field a strong side.
The Blues are in good form and made history during the week, becoming the first side ever to hold the Champions League and Europa League trophies at the same time.
Everton gave David Moyes a great send-off last week in his last home game at Goodison Park beating West Ham 2-0. The Toffees have had one of their best seasons ever in the EPL and are just three points shy of their best tally of 66-points.
Chelsea will be without captain John Terry, who is out for the visit of Everton with an ankle injury. Brazilian midfielder Ramires will also miss out because of suspension.
Everton left back Leighton Baines looks set for another start, meaning he could feature in every minute of Everton’s entire EPL campaign.
Last games of the season have a tendency to be drab uncompetitive affairs, but I doubt that will be the case in this game, especially because there is not much love lost between these two managers – Benitez upset Everton fans back when he was in charge of Liverpool by describing the Toffees as one of the ‘smaller teams’.
Chelsea have an imperious record against Everton at Stamford Bridge losing just once during the EPL era (P20, W10, D9, L1). However, the Blues looked a bit leggy in Wednesday’s Europa final, so Everton will fancy their chances of getting a result.
But Chelsea need a win to guarantee a third place finish and I expect to just edge this one.
Manchester City v Norwich
Just over a year ago Roberto Mancini was celebrating a last minute winner from Sergio Aguero that brought City their first league title in over 40-years. Exactly a year later he was sacked.
City players have looked a tad disjointed this season and recent revelations have highlighted this. (Getty Images)
Mancini’s dismissal is a tad surprising given he did bring City success, but there is no denying City have underachieved this season and Mancini’s poor man management seems to have been one of the reasons why.
Norwich have survived another year in the EPL, largely thanks to a strong first half of the season. But they were one of the poorest teams during the second half of the campaign and will need to reinforce if they don’t want to be relegated next season.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is a doubt to play after picking up a knock midweek against Reading, though Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic could return after being rested midweek.
Norwich have no injury worries and are likely to field the same side that beat West Brom 4-0 last week.
City have under-performed and been inconsistent all season, nevertheless they are still by far one of the best sides in the EPL, and even if they play poorly tomorrow they should still win this.
Newcastle v Arsenal
Newcastle will be glad Wigan lost to Arsenal midweek, because they would not have fancied going into this game needing a win.
Arsenal know this is a must win game – so this should be one to watch. (Getty Images)
Arsenal have been fantastic since losing to Tottenham back in March, dropping just four points out of a possible 27. Newcastle on the other hand have been in free-fall and will need to reinforce their back-line over the summer if they want to avoid a relegation dog fight next season.
Newcastle winger Sylvain Marveaux and Cheick Tiote are back after over coming injury problems. While Steve Harper is likely to deputies for the Magpies in goal after Rob Elliot, who was replacing the injured Tim Krul, was sent off last week.
The Gunners look like they will be without Mikel Arteta after the midfielder strained his calf with Jack Wilshere likely to replace the Spaniard.
Arsenal are the inform team in the EPL at the moment, while Newcastle are one of the most out-of-form teams, so this should be a straightforward victory for the Gunners. But two seasons ago, the Magpies were 4-0 down to Arsenal after 26 minutes. They were still 4-0 down with 22 minutes left but then staged an incredible fightback to earn a 4-4 draw. So who knows?
I’ll stick my neck out though and go for an Arsenal win.
Tottenham vs Sunderland
When Tottenham beat Arsenal at White Hart Lane back in March they looked absolutely certain to finish above their north London neighbors in a Champions League spot.
Clint Dempsey has scored some crucial goals this season but their CL fate also lies with other results .(Getty Images)
But a dip in form along with a fantastic run by Arsenal has seen that opportunity slip through Spurs’ fingers, and the north Londoners now have to win and hope their neighbors slip up.
Sunderland’s decision to sack Martin O’Neal and employ Paolo Di Canio seems to have paid-off, as the Black Cats have stayed up – but I think they would have survived regardless. There are likely to be a few changes at Sunderland during the summer, as Di Canio tries to make his mark on the club, so many of the Sunderland’s players will be hoping to impress on Sunday.
Tottenham will welcome back left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto who has recovered from a knee injury, though Midfielder Sandro and defensive duo Younes Kaboul and William Gallas are all still unavailable.
Sunderland will have to do without left-back Danny Rose as he is ineligible to play against his parent club. Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner are also unavailable for the Black Cats through suspension but Connor Wickham is available.
Tottenham need a win and are likely to go all out to get it. The north Londoners have won nine of their 11 EPL matches against the Black Cats and I expect this to be another one.
West Brom vs Manchester United
Alex Ferguson will take charge of Manchester United for the 1500th and last time when the Red Devils take on West Brom on Sunday.
Manchester United won for Fergie in his last ever game at Old Trafford last weekend, beating Swansea 2-1, and will want to win in his last ever appearances as their manager.
Although the Red Devils clinched the league title on the 23 April, they have basically been playing for nothing since they were knocked out of the Champions League in February. But they have still played with vigor and passion, and I don’t image they will stop now in Fergie’s last ever game.
Van Persie is set to pick up the EPL golden boot as well as already picking up his firs EPL League title. (Getty Images)
West Brom lost heavily 4-0 away to Norwich last week, but the Baggies have had a terrific season. They have spent most, if not all of the season in the top half of the table and amassed their best ever points tally (48) ever in the EPL.
West Brom midfielder Steven Reid could feature despite picking up a knock in last weekend’s loss at Norwich, while Marc-Antoine Fortune could also play after serving a suspension.
Alex Ferguson looks set to start Jonny Evans and Phil Jones in defense and Anders Lindegaard in Goal, though Wanye Rooney once again looks like being omitted from the squad.
Manchester United may already be crowned Champions, but expect them to put in a strong performance for the man they call “the Boss”. The game will also be Paul Scholes last game, who announced he would retire at the end of the season.
A win for United would see them equal their best ever points tall of 91 and set a club record of 29 wins in a season. The Red Devils have never lost to West Brom in the EPL, winning 11 of their 13 meetings, so the omens are good for Fergie.