Usually when we move into Week 31 of the Premier League season, some things are settled. Fixtures can become a little irrelevant if a couple of teams are well adrift at the bottom or a side is racing clear at the top.
But this season, there’s still so, so much to play for as we move into the final stage of the campaign.
That’s because results are starting to follow something of a strict pattern. As eight thrilling games were played out on the Saturday of Week 31, the top three sides won by comfortable margins whilst the teams that occupy the bottom seven places in the table all lost. In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of yesterday’s results, which yielded a whopping 32 goals:
|Home Team||Away Team||Final Score|
|West Ham||Manchester United||0-2|
It’s making for an exceptionally tight finish. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea are currently four points clear at the top of the pile, but despite their 6-0 drubbing of Arsenal, when quizzed on whether the Stamford Bridge outfit were favourites for the title the Portuguese responded, “No. Obviously not."
He was a little more bullish about his side’s performance against Arsenal though, claiming it was an "easy" win, per BBC Sport.
The first 10 minutes were amazing.
The way we started, the way we pressed them and recovered the ball, it was fantastic. Everyone in the stadium felt it would be an easy Chelsea win after only 10 minutes and it was then easy and comfortable.
Here, we take a look at some of Saturday’s top clashes and what they’ll mean for the remainder of the campaign, starting with that remarkable game at the Bridge:
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal
This game represented an excellent chance for the Gunners to thrust themselves back into the title reckoning. A win against the league leaders would have moved them to within one point of the Premier League summit with a game in hand.
But, in what’s becoming something of a patent against other title challengers, the Gunners capitulated. John Cross of The Mirror noted just how much they’ve struggled against the sides they’d consider to be direct rivals:
After shipping 17 goals against 3 direct rivals it proves Arsenal need new players and investment. Wenger has the cash. Needs to spend it.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) March 23, 2014
Credit must go to Mourinho though, who got his tactics typically spot on. His side flew out of the blocks in a manner comparable to Liverpool in a 5-1 win over the Gunners earlier this campaign, pressing the Gunners high up and harrying them out of possession.
Two early strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schurrle effectively ended the game before a penalty from Eden Hazard, a brace from Oscar and a first Chelsea goal for Mohamed Salah put the gloss on the scoreline.
The league leaders now have four winnable games against Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Swansea and Sunderland in the EPL, and they will be hoping to put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack.
Arsenal supporters will be a little a worried, as Everton’s 3-2 win over Swansea moved the Toffees to within eight points of the Gunners, with a game in hand too. Arsene Wenger’s side has to travel to Goodison Park before the end of the campaign and will be desperate to cling onto that Champions League place.
Cardiff City 3-6 Liverpool
The Liverpool goal machine rolls on.
A hat-trick from Luis Suarez sunk Cardiff City, who put up a brave fight against the Premier League’s in-form team. It was Suarez and his strike partner Daniel Sturridge who did the damage once more, as their goalscoring exploits began to border on the ridiculous:
Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have now scored 46 goals between them in the EPL this season, the same amount as Man United.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 22, 2014
The Reds supporters chanted “we’re gonna win the league” as the Liverpool attack ran riot once again, and Brendan Rodgers has assembled a team that looks to have all the credentials of a title-winning side.
Twice Liverpool fell behind in this one, but they showed fantastic resilience to roar back on each occasion. Goals from Jordan Mutch and Fraizer Campbell were equalised by Suarez and Martin Skrtel to make the score 2-2 at half-time. The Slovakian netted again just after the break to make it 3-2 and to take his own personal tally to six for the season:
Liverpool started to dominate at this point, as Suarez and Sturridge bagged a goal each to make it 5-2. Mutch grabbed his second late on to reduce the deficit, but Liverpool's three-goal cushion was soon restored as Suarez raced away on the break to complete his hat-trick.
The Merseysiders have the momentum in this title race, and with games at home to Chelsea and Manchester City to come before the season ends, they have a brilliant chance of winning their first title in almost a quarter of a century.
Cardiff were spirited here, but the way in which they were cut open time and time again will be something of a concern for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he looks to steer his team clear of relegation.
Manchester City 5-0 Fulham
A hat-trick from Yaya Toure gave City a comfortable win over the Premier League’s bottom side, Fulham. Toure grabbed his treble before Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis added late strikes, putting City six points behind leaders Chelsea with three games in hand.
Who will win the Premier League?
Fulham actually had a couple of decent openings in this one before City took the lead. Former Manchester United man Kieran Richardson would have loved to net at the Etihad Stadium, but he struck wide when given too much time in the City penalty area with the game still goalless.
From that point on the League Cup winners took control, with Toure at the heart of everything. He cooly dispatched a penalty either side of half-time before completing his hat-trick with a sumptuous 30-yard curler.
The Ivorian’s treble means only Liverpool’s mercurial striking duo leads him in the goalscoring charts, and more performances like this will put City well on their way to a second title in three years. Yaya became just the fourth player from the Ivory Coast to score a hat-trick in the Premier League:
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
As for Fulham, this was always going to be a massive task, so they shouldn't be too disheartened. They must respond when they welcome Everton to Craven Cottage next time out.