1. Where else to start but at Anfield where Steven Gerrard said farewell to the Liverpool fans but the party was ruined by Crystal Palace who ran out 3-1 winners. ‘Palace who although were quite fortunate in 2 out of their 3 goals (Their second saw two players including goalscorer Wilifried Zaha marginally offside, while the tackle by Lucas Leiva which led to the penalty decision for their third was outside the box) were good value for their win as Alan Pardew masterminded the party pooping to end all party poopings. In a way it was always going to be this way, the level in which the footballing press were building this occasion up meant that it was undoubtedly setup to fail, a lot of non-Liverpool fans would have taken a great deal of schadenfreude after witnessing Palace beat Liverpool (I must admit I laughed when Glenn Murray converted his penalty rebound to make it 3-1) but ultimately Steven Gerrard did get a send off he deserved after coming back on the pitch after the game, but I suppose it would have been an all round better narrative had he actually finished his last appearance at Anfield with a win. Spare a thought for him though as he now has to finish his Premier League career at The Britannia Stadium, no one really deserves that.
2. Barcelona won La Liga last night for the 5th time in 7 seasons with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid. Barcelona would have got some revenge on Atleti who themselves won the league last season with a 1-0 victory when the two clubs in a last day league decider. With the game at 0-0 at half time it was poised for a grandstand finish and the difference was from….well who else? but Lionel Messi. The Argentinian finished a neat passing move between him and Neymar to edge the Catalan side even closer to the league title, Neymar could and should have made it two-nil but blazed high over and the bar and Pedro was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet when his effort from the edge of the box after some neat footwork flashed just pass the post. Once Barcelona went ahead they didn’t just sit on the game they wanted to put the exclamation point on it, although the 2nd goal didn’t actually come Atletico didn’t really threaten and the only real danger was that if Barcelona would self implode with Atletico doing their best to wind up their opponents. Neymar and Diego Godin had a flash point right at the end but Neymar was clever enough to hide in the Left Back position although he did pick up a booking for his troubles as did Messi for perceived time wasting late on, but Barcelona didn’t rise to the bait and did enough to see out the game and get the 3 points needed to win the title. With celebrations taking place on the pitch in front of the small but noisy group of travelling Barcelona fans, the minds will now turn to securing the other two legs of the treble and right now you certainly wouldn’t bet against them.
3. If Barcelona were the winners last night then obviously Real Madrid were the losers. Even with their 4-1 win away at Espanyol they have run out of games and opportunities to bridge the gap to the fiercest rivals. A hat-trick from Ronaldo and a goal from Marcelo got them the win but again it was a case of being a flat track bully and not winning when it really matters. Ronaldo may have got 3 more goals to add to his collection this season and that will no doubt make him the heavy favourite to win the Pichichi nextweekend but surely he would want to swap that for some silverware. Then again an argument could be made that Cristiano Ronaldo only really worries about Cristiano Ronaldo so him just getting a Pichichi is more than fitting, if Lionel Messi ends up winning the treble he will certainly end up wrestling the Ballon D’Or from Ronaldo as well. The question that will now be asked is will Carlo Ancelotti still be there by August or you could even narrow that down to will he still be there next month?. I think the cycle could have ended for Ancelotti now the only thing that could save him is there isn’t really a clear cut replacement at the moment, Zinedine Zidane has been much touted but will Florentino Perez take the leap of faith and offer him the job or will Ancelotti stay another season. Another saga which will no doubt run through the summer is the “will he, won’t he return” question behind Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid career, I think Florentino will want him to stay for at least another season as if he returns so soon it will look like his world record signing vanity project has failed. Bale will also no doubt want to stay and try and turn this slump around unless there is an offer of roughly the same value that bought him to Madrid then I expect the Welshman to be there for at least another season.
4. Hull have it all to do now in their battle to stave of relegation to The Championship. Their 2-0 defeat away to Tottenham who in turn got only their 2nd win in 7 matches makes the great escape not impossible but more likely improbable. In a week where Jake Livermore was found positive for cocaine and no doubt facing a certain ban, preparation would have no doubt gone out of the window late on and made a tough job even more difficult. But credit to the Tigers they did look the more dangerous side in the 1st half but as has been their problem all season they struggled to really be clinical in the final third where it really matters. Spurs on the other hand where the more ruthless of the two sides and did their Europa League qualification hopes no harm, whether they want those hopes is a different matter. That win keeps them in 6th place but thanks to Liverpool’s defeat they could still snatch 5th on the last day of the season and could round off what you would have to declare a relatively positive season for Mauricio Pochettino. As for Hull they now have to go to Old Trafford on the last day of the season knowing anything less than a win and they are down.
5. The reason Hull still have a chance is because Newcastle couldn’t build on their point against West Bromwich Albion last weekend and managed to lose to already relegated QPR at Loftus Road. Newcastle took the lead through Emmanuel Riviere but admittedly his chip over Robert Green was quite lucky as he managed to slip and chip at the same time. QPR got back in the game through Matty Phillips and then took the lead through an absolute rocket by Leroy Fer. Tim Krul who hasn’t had the best second half of the season was largely at fault for the second, there was no way he was going to save the shot but had his goal kick been better in the first place then that goal would have come around. QPR fans will be pleased that their team salvaged a bit of pride after their 6-1 thumping away to Manchester City last weekend which commended them to relegation but will also be asking where was this character throughout the season. Newcastle will now have to go into the last game of the season knowing that although the fixture computer has been kinder to them with a home tie against a West Ham side who haven’t looked interested since January should they buckle under the pressure and results go against them then the famous St. James atmosphere that should just see them to safety could turn very toxic very quickly.
6. At The Stadium of Light on Saturday, one clinched safety where one team is still looking over their shoulder. Leicester and Sunderland shared the points in a 0-0 draw which to be honest didn’t really have too much to write home about but the real story here is Leicester great if not greatest ever escape from relegation. They have got the same amount of points (19) then they have in the last 9 matches of the season they did in the first 28. Dead and buried by February it has been a quite extraordinary set of results for Leicester City and Manager Nigel Pearson who will personally feel vindicated after if you are led to believe the rumours was actually sacked by the owners only to be reinstated, they will plan for another season at the top level whereas Sunderland now have to plan on getting at least 1 point in their next two matches. The only problem being that the next two matches are against Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, Arsenal will be looking to get all 3 points and secure third place and with it direct qualification to the Champions League whereas Chelsea who have already wrapped up the league could be the possible venue to snatch the points but Jose Mourinho has already said he has a duty to the rest of the Premier League to play as strong a team as possible so there won’t be any easy rides there. Sunderland should just about be safe but stranger things have happened on the final day of the season so they aren’t safe yet.
7. Manchester City won their 5th game in a row away at Swansea yesterday afternoon. For every game this current run of form continues it makes that slump in March all the more frustrating, that win puts them slightly closer to wrapping up 2nd place but if Arsenal win both their last games then ‘City will have to make sure they win on the last day of the season to finish as runners up for the 2nd time in 3 seasons. Will that be enough for Manuel Pellegrini to keep his job?, only will time will tell. Maybe we could see Carlo Ancelotti arrive at The Etihad next season but I wouldn’t bet on a Pellegrini return to the Bernabeu anytime soon. As for Swansea defeat for them killed off their slim Europa League hopes but they can still be proud of their record points tally this season – although when did this become a “thing”. There seems to be an increase in the celebrating of record points tallies lately just another stat for the sake of it I guess.
8. Arsenal and Manchester United shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw which as alluded to above keeps Arsenal in 3rd place and the last automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League. Arsenal have Tyler Blackett to thank for that as if it weren’t for his late own goal then United would have leapfrogged Arsenal into 3rd place but both clubs will have to do with a share of the points. The big question now is has David De Gea who went off through injury and was replaced by a debuting Victor Valdes played his last game for the club – will the lure of a return to Madrid be too much for the Spaniard
9. Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick in under 3 minutes for Southampton which blew Robbie Fowler’s Premier League record out of the water against a Aston Villa whose defending was absolutely awful. Thankfully for Aston Villa results went their way and they assured survival but they won’t have much to celebrate after Saturday lunchtimes offering. If they play like that at the F.A. Cup Final in a couple of weeks then Arsenal are going to absolutely run riot.
10. Norwich will face Middlesbrough in the Championship Play-Off Final next Monday. Middlesbrough disposed of Brentford 3-0 on Friday night, with that defeat it saw the end of Mark Warburtons reign as Brentford Manager after he was told in February by chairman Matthew Bentham that he wouldn’t be retained regardless of how they did it also killed off their hopes of getting back to back promotions. Norwich beat Ipswich 3-1 in a game which was turned by the sending off of Christophe Berra for handball on the line, Norwich duly went ahead from the resulting penalty and although Ipswich did equalise the extra man advantage proved the difference as the Canaries secured their first Wembley trip in 30 years. So it will be Aitor Karanka vs Alex Neil in a weeks time in what will be the richest game in English Football and it will take a brave man to predict the winner.
11. Finally spare some thought for Bayern Munich. Another defeat them at the weekend, in a season where they were most likely favourites for the treble, they went off the boil at just the wrong time. Defeats to Dortmund in the Cup and Barcelona in the Champions League means they will have to make do with only the Bundesliga. Poor Pep.