The final weekend of the Premier League season is always some spectacle. It’s awash with incomparable tension, as the fans of teams embroiled in battles on the final day cling to their portable radios with clammy palms, desperate to hear some good news from games elsewhere in the country.
This season has already given us a couple of campaigns' worth of excitement, but you wouldn’t be surprised if there was one more dramatic twist to cap it off.
In truth, most things are settled as we stand on the brink of the campaign’s climax. At the bottom, Fulham and Cardiff City already know that they’ll be in the Championship next season, and barring a dramatic turn of events that Norwich City will join them.
Everton fell short in their quest for the final Champions League spot, which means Arsene Wenger will take his Arsenal side into Europe’s elite competition for the 17th consecutive season.
The Arsenal boss admitted he is both proud and frustrated after an inconsistent campaign, per Sky Sports:
We want more, as we were not sure to be in the top-four but we were 128 days top of the league so there is a bit of frustration too. It has been tight as we are on 76 and the top of the table on 80 so there is frustration as you think what could have been.
I am proud because when you lose your first game and have 18 others it won't be easy but we responded well, maybe we missed one or two teams against big teams like Chelsea or City but overall it is a good record.
However, the best and most important bit is yet to be decided going in to the final weekend.
Manchester City are on course for the title, but know that any lapse in standards against West Ham on the final day could hand the trophy to Liverpool, who only trail by goal difference at the time of writing.
Ahead of what promises to be a gripping weekend, here are the fixtures and some predictions as to what might take place before the curtain falls on a wonderful Premier League campaign:
|Cardiff vs. Chelsea||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||0-1|
|Fulham vs. Crystal Palace||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
|Hull vs. Everton||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||0-2|
|Liverpool vs. Newcastle||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||5-0|
|Manchester City vs. West Ham||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||2-0|
|Norwich vs. Arsenal||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-3|
|Southampton vs. Manchester United||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
|Sunderland vs. Swansea||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-0|
|Tottenham vs. Aston Villa||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||2-1|
|West Brom vs. Stoke||11 May 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
Liverpool vs. Newcastle United
When you take stock of the mood around each of the above clubs, it’s quite staggering to think that the Toon Army finished 13 points ahead of the Anfield outfit just two seasons ago. Liverpool finished in eighth, only ahead of Fulham on goal difference, per PremierLeague.com.
Since that campaign, Brendan Rodgers has turned Liverpool around. They’ve been magnificent this season, playing a scintillating brand of football with an underpinning substance.
You’d be hard pressed to name a team that has been better to watch than the Reds in 2014, and, in many respects, it’d be a shame to see them lose out on the title. But Rodgers insists that they have yet to give up on the title dream:
Rodgers: "What we've achieved so far this season is nothing short of remarkable... we'll keep fighting to the end." http://t.co/kV0QjQvdFC— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) May 5, 2014
The final day can do strange, strange things to teams. City have a winnable game against West Ham in Week 38, but would you honestly put it past the Hammers going to the Etihad and grinding out a 0-0 draw? With that in mind, Liverpool need to focus on their own job and dispatch of Newcastle.
They’ll surely have far too much for Alan Pardew’s troops, who have looked disinterested for the majority of this calendar year. Protests and walkouts have created a state of disarray at the club and Newcastle are surely set for a summer of major upheaval at a time when their opponents are building toward an exciting future.
Key Player - Steven Gerrard
After his slip against Chelsea last weekend, the Liverpool skipper will be desperate to make amends. If his team are in with a sniff of the title come the final day, expect to see him driving his players forward and rallying the crowd with his all-action style. He'll be desperate to get that Premier League winners' medal.
Manchester City vs. West Ham United
After they managed to grind out a win at Goodison Park in Week 37, City have given themselves a marvellous chance of winning the title. If they successfully negotiate two home games against Aston Villa and West Ham over the next week they’ll be crowned Premier League champions.
But the City faithful will know more than any set of supporters how the tension of the final day can affect players. They needed to beat a poor QPR side at the Etihad on the final day two seasons ago to win the league, but they only managed to come through after a 94th-minute winner from Sergio Aguero.
And, as we’ve already touched upon, West Ham are a team that’ll go to the Etihad and be hard to beat. They’ll get men behind the ball and make it difficult for their opponents with their robust style, so City should expect no favours from Sam Allardyce and his team.
Liverpool supporters are hoping one of their former players can do them a favour in this fixture:
Last game of the season, Manchester City vs West Ham. Andy Carroll. I beg, please score the winner.— JFT96 (@LFCFansCorner) April 28, 2014
An early goal for City would be crucial here. It’d not only settle the nerves of the players and the crowd, but draw out the Hammers and create space for the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri to operate in.
Key Player - David Silva
With that in mind, players who can engineer space and thread intricate passes will be vital for City, and there's no player better at that than their Spanish maestro Silva. Expect him to start this one after coming off the bench against Everton. His efforts will be crucial to Manuel Pellegrini's team breaking down the West Ham wall.
Norwich City vs. Arsenal
Have Arsenal had a good season?
Despite battling to a 0-0 draw away at Chelsea in Week 37, the Canaries still need a miracle to stay in the Premier League.
Norwich need to beat Arsenal at Carrow Road on the final day and hope Sunderland lose both of their remaining games at home to West Brom and Swansea City if they’re to maintain their Premier League status.
It looks a wholly unlikely scenario, but anything can happen on the final day.
If Sunderland lose in midweek, then those Norwich supporters flocking to Carrow Road on the final day will believe that their team can do it. Especially against an Arsenal team that’ll surely have one eye on the FA Cup final. However, Wenger has insisted he'll play a strong team on the final day:
The boss has also pledged to field a strong side on the final day against Norwich, despite wrapping up fourth place: http://t.co/Q0aZowE0Qi— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 3, 2014
Could Norwich possibly take advantage of a potentially distracted Arsenal side? Perhaps, but you suspect all eyes will be on the Stadium of Light in midweek.
Key Player - John Ruddy
The Norwich 'keeper made some superb saves against Chelsea to help preserve the 0-0 scoreline, and you imagine he'll be called upon plenty of times when facing an Arsenal team that has rediscovered its swagger as of late. With a place in the World Cup squad seemingly up for grabs and Premier League survival potentially on the line, expect a strong performance from the former Everton stopper.