With the title and relegation issues decided, three teams will scrap for the two remaining Champions League places on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday.
Three points separate Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, with each hoping to join champions Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in next season’s premier European club competition. A Europa League place awaits whoever finishes fifth.
City travel to Watford knowing a win would guarantee them third spot and automatic qualification. Should fourth-placed Liverpool beat Middlesbrough, they would at least secure entry into the Champions League qualifying round.
But if either team fail to win, and Arsenal beat Everton, a playoff on a neutral ground could yet decide positions because goal difference and goals scored – the deciding factors if teams finish level – are very tight.
City (75 points, 36 goal difference, 75 goals scored) have the edge over Liverpool (73, 33, 75) and Arsenal (72, 31, 74). Put simply, Liverpool must equal Arsenal’s result and could even afford to lose to Middlesbrough by a single goal and still finish fourth if the Gunners draw.
Last season Arsenal pipped rivals Spurs to an unlikely second place on the final day but even manager Arsene Wenger knows a finish outside the top four for the first time under his stewardship is now likely.
Wenger will hope Liverpool’s extraordinary habit of slipping up against the league’s worst teams resurfaces, although relegated Boro have not won away since August and have lost six of their past seven games on the road.
For Liverpool to clinch a top-four spot ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United, who heavily outspent them in the transfer market, would be a significant achievement and last week’s vibrant 4-0 win over West Ham United, suggests Wenger should not hold his breath even if Anfield has witnessed several dismal home performances this season.
City, too, have impressed lately with three successive victories and should see off Watford, who have been slip-sliding into the summer break and are parting ways with manager Walter Mazzarri. For City boss Pep Guardiola, third is a minimum requirement from a campaign when many people’s pre-season favourites have only impressed in patches.
City are one of several clubs likely to splash the cash ahead of the new season with Chelsea, who could lose Eden Hazard and Diego Costa to Real Madrid and China respectively, also expected to be busy.
The champions sign off their league campaign, before next week’s FA Cup final against Arsenal, at home to Sunderland when captain John Terry is expected to make his final appearance for the club, reports Reuters.
Old Trafford may also witness a farewell with British media speculating that Wayne Rooney could sign off after 13 years, 556 appearances and a record 253 goals for Manchester United, who play Crystal Palace.
Rooney’s stellar United career is in danger of fizzling out after a season of frustration and he is unlikely to make the starting line-up in the Europa League final against Ajax next Wednesday.
Taribo West: Eagles’ character vital in Russia
Ex-international, Taribo West, has stated that the character of the Super Eagles will help them to excel at the World Cup in Russia. Speaking with our correspondent, West said the team’s strength was based on their collectiveness and that would make them difficult to beat in Russia.
“The good thing about this set of Eagles is that they play on their strength and that is the level of fitness and teamwork,” he said. “When you play a team that has no standout player but all playing for each other, they play as a unit, with strong stamina, they will not just surprise the people in their group but also everyone at the tournament. “In the past, we looked up to one or two players to make the difference in a difficult situation, but when you expect a player like Victor Moses, another like Alex Iwobi will turn up.
At times it will be the defender and that is the true strength of this team.” He also said the decision of the Nigeria Football Federation to honour exinternationals in a recent award ceremony, Aiteo/ NFF Awards, was a good initiative. According to him, all those who have been holding grudges against the team and the federation in the past would have forgiven them after the NFF honoured them. He also applauded the NFF for the preparation given to the team and all the other friendly games lined up to takeplace in the coming days.
He added: “The grudges and the pains have been released and the blessings that follow reconciliation will follow for the team and the federation. The performance will be awesome at the World Cup. “For how far the NFF, have gone, it has been fantastic and the plans also good enough for the team. If you look at the numbers of friendly games, I will say I am satisfied.”
Akwa Utd thank Udom, Nigerians for support
The Management of Akwa United FC have expressed appreciation to Nigerians for their prayers and supports which they said helped a great deal in their qualification to the First Round of the CAF Confederation Cup competition on Wednesday in Banjul.
Speaking after the team’s victory against Hawks FC in Banjul, Chairman of the club, Elder Paul Bassey, expressed gratitude, first to God and to Nigerians for standing by the team despite the first leg lost in Uyo. Bassey was particularly grateful to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State for his massive support and trust in the team even during the most difficult times.
“When we received the good news that Plateau United and MFMFC had qualified, we knew that we had to win and we reacted positively by keeping the Nigerian flag flying on the continent. “The level of support we received from Nigerians before the game was awesome and we thank the Almighty God who made it possible,” Bassey said.
Rohr considers Martins for World Cup
Obafemi Martins looks set to gate crash the Super Eagles final squad to the World Cup in Russia after he scored a goal and provided an assist for Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua to draw 2-2 with Sydney FC of Australia in the Asia Champions League. Martins opened scoring after 26 minutes, before he assisted for his team’s second goal.
The nippy striker has been firing goals in the Chinese Super League. Sources have said he had now in serious contention for a place on the Super Eagles World Cup squad as coach Gernot Rohr is shopping for a proven goal scorer. ‘Oba-goal’ has scored goals in Italy, Spain, England, Russia and in the Major League Soccer League (MLS) in the United States of America.
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