It all comes down to this.
With two games on Tuesday—including a vital contest between Arsenal and Wigan that will impact both Champions League qualification and relegation—and a full slate of games on Sunday, we've reached the end of the Champions League.
For Arsenal and Tottenham, this week will determine their European fates next season. For Wigan, Sunderland, Southampton, Aston Villa and Fulham, this week will determine their Premier League fates next season.
It's going to be fun, folks. Let's break down the last week of the season.
TUESDAY, MAY 14
2:45 p.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic
3 p.m. ET: Reading vs. Manchester City
SUNDAY, MAY 19
11 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Everton
11 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Queens Park Rangers
11 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Norwich City
11 a.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
11 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Stoke City
11 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Fulham
11 a.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland
11 a.m. ET: West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United
11 a.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Reading
11 a.m. ET: Wigan Athletic vs. Aston Villa
|8||West Bromwich Albion||37||14||6||17||-4||48|
|10||West Ham United||37||11||10||16||-10||43|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||37||4||13||20||-29||25|
The week starts with a bang on Tuesday, as Arsenal are set to host Wigan in a match that will have serious implications for both the Champions League and relegation battles.
For Arsenal, a win will put them back into fourth place and a point clear of Tottenham heading into the final Sunday of the season. But a loss or tie would mean they would finish fifth if Spurs won their final game.
One major advantage for Arsenal is that their Sunday foe, Newcastle, ensured a spot in the Premier League next season with a win this weekend. St James' Park may not be as difficult a spot to play in now with Newcastle's relegation battle behind them.
For Wigan, a loss to Arsenal means relegation, a tie essentially means relegation (Sunderland has a huge advantage in goal differential) and a win will put them just a point shy of Sunderland for 17th place. With a game against Aston Villa on Sunday (currently five points clear of Wigan in 16th place), Wigan can guarantee a spot in the Premier League next year with two wins.
Given their huge advantage in goal differential compared to Tottenham, Chelsea will be playing only for positioning in the Champions League against Everton on Sunday. A loss and two Arsenal wins would drop the Blues into fourth place and force them into the qualifying stage.
Speaking of Tottenham, the team will not have an easy task when it faces Sunderland, currently embroiled in a battle to remain in the Premier League next season. Still, with all of the late-game drama Spurs have managed of late, it is hard to see them losing that contest.
Both Southampton and Fulham will be fighting for their Premier League lives as well (against Stoke City and Swansea City, respectively), as a loss and two Wigan wins would drop them into the relegation zone. If each team remained tied at 40 points, Fulham would be relegated on goal differential.
Finally, there is the little matter of Sir Alex Ferguson's final game at the helm of Manchester United when the team travels to The Hawthorns to face West Brom. The result means absolutely nothing for either team, but the occasion will surely be one to remember, as one of the game's great legends says goodbye once and for all.
On what promises to be a manic Sunday, Sir Alex will go out in style, a champion once again.
Assuming Gareth Bale doesn't depart White Hart Lane this summer, Tottenham's biggest need is a consistent striker to headline the attack.
According to Steve Stammers of the Mirror, the team has identified that man, and it's Aston Villa's Christian Benteke:
But they will face fierce competition from Arsenal for he 22-year-old Aston Villa front man has made a huge impact this season following his £7 million move last August from Belgian club Genk.
Villa would want at THREE times what they paid for him—and there will be no shortage of takers at £20million-plus.
Tottenham will head that queue. Their failure to score enough goals has left them trailing behind Arsenal and Chelsea—the two rivals for a top four spot in the Premier League that will bring the chance of Champions League football.
Benteke has been phenomenal this season, with 23 goals in all competitions for Aston Villa. While Emmanuel Adebayor has been clutch of late and Jermain Defoe is a natural goal scorer, the former is too inconsistent and the latter is better suited as a late-game injection of offense coming off the bench as a super sub.
In other words, Benteke would be an excellent addition to a club knocking on the door of England's elite.
Just in case you were worried that Manchester City might curb their huge spending this summer, Matt Law of the Mirror writes that the team is set to add Napoli striker Edinson Cavani and Malaga midfielder Isco:
Manchester City are confident Edinson Cavani and Isco will follow Manuel Pellegrini to Eastlands.
Pellegrini is set to be confirmed as City’s new manager to replace Roberto Mancini and he will not be the only arrival from Malaga.
Abu Dhabi sources have excitedly claimed that Spanish attacking midfielder Isco will join his boss Pellegrini at City and that a deal for Cavani is close to completion.
The total cost of the double deal could total a staggering £79 million.
While no soccer club in their right mind would turn down the additions of players like Cavani or Isco, it isn't that City is lacking for talent, it's that the talent the team has failed to play well together and didn't live up to realistic expectations of winning a title this year.
But hey, if you've got it, spend it, I guess. It looks as though City will be living by that philosophy again this summer.
One of the worst-kept secrets around European football seems to be that Jose Mourinho will leave Real Madrid this summer and head back to London to manage Chelsea. And if he does, it appears he'll bring one of his players from Los Blancos with him.
From Matt Law of the Mirror:
Jose Mourinho has lined up German midfielder Sami Khedira to follow him to Chelsea.
Germany international Khedira has been at Real Madrid since 2010 and would cost the Blues around £20 million.
Mourinho has already identified the areas of the Chelsea squad he would like to strengthen with the centre of midfield one of his top priorities.
Chelsea remain in negotiations to take Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge, with compensation now the main sticking point.
Outside of needing to upgrade at striker, adding a true holding midfielder is a definite need for Chelsea. The team is set on the attack beyond that and should be led by the trio of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar for years to come, but adding another midfielder to support the defense is a must.
Khedira would be a great fit to fulfill that very role.
I think the relegation battle will come to a close in a rather anticlimactic manner on Tuesday, with Arsenal beating Wigan. Fans of Southampton, Fulham, Aston Villa and Sunderland will all be able to breathe a little easier on Sunday.
That will leave just the Champions League spot up for grabs. While I can't see Spurs losing to a Sunderland team that now has nothing to play for at home, I also can't see Arsene Wenger's troops flopping against a Newcastle team that also has nothing to play for.
Arsenal will win their final two games and secure fourth place, while Spurs will have to be satisfied with the Europa League once more.
Other winners this week will include Manchester City (twice), Manchester United, Liverpool, West Ham and Aston Villa, while Chelsea will draw against Everton, Southampton will draw against Stoke City and Swansea will draw against Fulham.