Early in the Premier League campaign, the table pointed toward very close races across the board. Sure enough, as clubs begin the stretch run, the battles—from the league title all the way down to avoiding relegation—remain up in the air, which makes for an exciting finish.
Above all else, it makes every match mean something. Normally, by this point in the season, there are a group of teams in the middle of the table with little to play for, as they can't qualify for Europe but are also safe from relegation. That's not the case this time around.
Saturday featured a busy slate, with eight matches taking place to set the stage ahead of Sunday's pair of marquee matchups as Manchester United takes on Liverpool and Tottenham hosts Arsenal. Let's check out how the table shapes up before the focus shifts to those games.
|Week 31 Premier League Table|
And here are the results from Saturday, with the final match to be added upon completion.
|Matchday 30 Results|
|Home Club||Road Club||Result|
Manchester City were one of the day's biggest winners. They were coming off getting eliminated from both the Champions League and FA Cup, and getting back on track was essential. They are still in control of their own destiny in league play, but the margin for error is thin.
Things didn't get off to a promising start, as Vincent Kompany was sent off just 10 minutes into the match. City deserve a lot of credit for keep their composure after that. David Silva scored a handful of minutes later to grab the lead, and Edin Dzeko added a late tally to seal the win.
Afterward, Chris Nield of the club's official site passed along comments from manager Manuel Pellegrini, who praised his team's response to the early setback:
It was a very good response in a very difficult week.
We just lost against Wigan and against Barcelona and we needed to win today. Playing with one player less was very difficult. It was a good performance because we defended well with the ball and without the ball, and we also had three good chances to score. It was a very professional response from the players.
Another one of the day's key victors was Fulham. The Cottagers were in desperate need of three points heading into the clash with Newcastle, as they were entering a danger zone in terms of falling too far behind other clubs to get out of the relegation zone.
After a sluggish first half from both squads, Fulham were able to put together 45 strong minutes in the second and it paid off. Ashkan Dejagah scored with just over 20 minutes remaining to grab the 1-0 lead, and the squad put the defensive clamps on from there to hold on.
A quick glance at the table shows there's still plenty of work to do down the stretch in order to stay up. That said, as Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union notes, the win ensures that the hope of fighting out of the bottom three remains:
Another notable result saw Everton keep their bid for a European berth alive thanks to a late winner from Seamus Coleman. It capped a wild second half that saw both sides increase the offensive effort in an attempt to grab all three points.
Gerard Deulofeu got the scoring started for the Toffees just before the hour mark. Cala responded less than 10 minutes later to equalize for Cardiff. Although both squads had some chances after that point, it appeared the result was going to hold as a draw.
That changed in the final moments of the match, as Coleman played the role of hero. In the third minute of stoppage time, a cross ended up getting headed back to toward the middle of the box, where the defender was waiting wide open, and he floated the shot into the net.
Those three points could come in handy for Everton when the dust settles at season's end.