Another busy weekend of Premier League fixtures got started with a key battle in the championship race. The latest edition of the rivalry between Chelsea and Arsenal quickly turned into a one-sided affair in favor of the Blues, which remain atop the table.
Liverpool and Manchester City were also in action Saturday as they sought to remain in title contention. And there were several matches with other implications as well, from the fight for European berths to those hoping to avoid relegation.
Given the close races throughout the table, all signs continue to point toward a thrilling finish to the Premier League campaign. Knowing that, let's check out how the table shapes up after another high-pressure day around the EPL.
Here's a look at Saturday's results:
|Home Club||Road Club||Final Score|
|West Ham||Manchester United||0-2|
As mentioned, the marquee matchup of the day pitted Chelsea against Arsenal in a fixture that was going to have a major impact on the title race regardless of the result. Unfortunately for the Gunners, their championship hopes took a huge hit in a blowout loss.
Arsenal were caught off guard, as the Blues turned up the pressure early. Samuel Eto'o struck just five minutes into the match, and Andre Schurrle added another just two minutes later. Chelsea never looked back en route to a 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge.
Blues manager Jose Mourinho was extremely pleased with how the squad played in that opening 10 minutes to take complete control. The club passed along his comments in which he talked about the aggressive plan of attack:
Mourinho: 'There were 10 amazing minutes and with that you can win, and I am so happy with the approach. We came to kill.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) March 22, 2014
Even though Manchester City are still in control of their own destiny with matches in hand, each Chelsea win ensures their margin for error is thin. And by knocking off Arsenal, it likely takes another team out of contention.
Speaking of City, they scored a convincing victory of their own on Saturday. Yaya Toure netted a hat trick before Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis added late tallies to complete the 5-0 romp of an overmatched Fulham side.
Paul Carr provided an interesting note about the performance from Toure:
Yaya Toure is the 4th Ivory Coast player with a PL hat trick, matching Nigeria for most by an African country.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) March 22, 2014
Things are going to get a lot more difficult down the stretch for the Sky Blues. They still have road matches against Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton on the horizon. That makes three points in the other games essential as they pursue the title.
Liverpool were also able to keep pace with a high-scoring win over Cardiff. There were some tense moments for the Reds, as they actually fell behind two different times in the first half before fighting back to equalize both times before the break.
They were finally able to take control in the second 45 minutes. Martin Skrtel added his second goal of the match to give Liverpool their first lead and Luis Suarez took over from there, scoring twice more after a first-half tally to complete the hat trick in the 6-3 win.
The Reds still have home games against Chelsea and City coming up, which means they must be considered a serious threat to capture the title even though those other clubs have generated more championship buzz.
Which club would you consider the title favorite?
Elsewhere, Everton survived a late rally attempt from Swansea to move into fifth place. Hull received goals from Liam Rosenior and Shane Long in a win over West Brom. Newcastle got a stoppage-time winner from Papiss Demba Cisse. And Norwich edged Sunderland 2-0 with a pair of first-half goals.
Looking ahead to Sunday, the early match will feature Tottenham attempting to wrestle fifth place back from Everton with a victory over Southampton. Spurs must get the attack going more consistently if they are going to finish strong.
The late match pits Aston Villa against Stoke. Both clubs are right on the edge of feeling completely confident about avoiding a late relegation battle and will be seeking three points in what will likely be a solid back-and-forth match.