Matchday 22 is almost in the books, and there were some clear-cut winners and losers from the weekend action.
With the season more than halfway over, each match brings more pressure than the last as teams jockey for position. Although the weekend action wasn't loaded with premier matches, there were several results that will potentially have major impacts on the rest of the season.
Before we get to the biggest winners and losers from the weekend matches, here is the updated league table:
West Bromwich and Everton will play Monday at 3:00 p.m. ET
|14||West Bromwich Albion||21||4||9||8||23||28||-5||21|
|18||West Ham United||22||4||6||12||22||33||-11||18|
After watching Arsenal and Manchester City each notch two-goal wins on Saturday, the pressure was on José Mourinho's club on Sunday. His team responded beautifully, abusing Manchester United's awful defense to earn a 3-1 win and keep pace with their rivals atop the EPL standings.
Samuel Eto'o provided the scoring punch for Chelsea, completing a hat trick within the first 49 minutes to push his goal total this season to six. The Cameroon native was on the board early after a curling goal in the 17th minute, and he finished two easy chances to wrap up the hat trick.
With the victory, Chelsea remained in the heart of the title race and set the stage for an epic meeting with Manchester City on Feb. 3.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, they conceded a late goal to Javier Hernandez, which could hurt them if the championship race comes down to goal differential.
Jason Puncheon shook off his penalty miss last game against Tottenham and buried one this week, giving Crystal Palace a 1-0 victory over Stoke.
The win lifted them from the bottom of the table, pushing them ahead of Cardiff City, Sunderland, West Ham and Fulham. The Eagles are now one step closer to avoiding relegation, and they can gain even more breathing room with a win in their next EPL match against Hull City.
Of course, it's impossible to know what to expect from Crystal Palace and Puncheon, as Jim Daly of ESPN FC wrote: "In the last week, Palace midfielder Jason Puncheon has gone from hero to villain, to super villain, to hero again. And I'm not quite sure what role he will play next week."
If the Eagles are going to avoid relegation, they will need the Southampton loan-man to be consistently good.
David Moyes' club played terribly on Sunday, and as a result they now find themselves 14 points behind first-place Arsenal. Even worse, they are in danger of missing out on Champions League play, as they are six points behind Liverpool and Tottenham and four points behind sixth-place Everton.
Most of the blame for this loss falls on the defense, as they conceded six shots on goal and allowed Eto'o to run rampant through the box. They also lost Nemanja Vidic late after he drew a straight red card for a dangerous tackle attempt on Eden Hazard.
After the match, Vidic summed up the defeat in rather simple terms, according to Man United's official Twitter feed:
Nemanja Vidic on Chelsea defeat: "It's disappointing. We weren't clinical in their box and we didn't defend well enough in ours." #mufc— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 19, 2014
Luckily for Man United, its next three EPL games are against Cardiff City, Stoke and Fulham, which gives them a good opportunity to get back in the Champions League mix.
West Ham United
West Ham was absolutely shredded by Newcastle United on Saturday, surrendering three goals and nine shots on target on their way to a 3-1 loss. A Michael Williamson own goal just before half made the score look a little more respectable, but this was a blowout through and through.
As West Ham's defense struggled, their offense was unable to pick up the slack. Just two of The Irons' 11 shots challenged the goalkeeper, and Carlton Cole was unable to score a potential equalizer after ruining a simple finish (h/t @MrTransferNewss):
MrTransferNewss) January 18, 2014
With the loss, West Ham now finds themselves in the relegation zone. And with a game against Chelsea next on their EPL schedule, it looks like things will only get worse from here.
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