With the relegation saga drawing to a close (a round of applause for the gardener Phil Brown), the make up of the upper echelons a foregone conclusion, the final round of the English Premier League looks to be anti-climatic. The world will we sitting, waiting, wishing for a slip up (circle either or both Tottenham/Chelsea) to produce a few jitters. After all, the final day has never been without surprises.
Arsenal v Fulham
The gunners have long since thrown in the towel on another season that has seen them improve, but fall short. Injuries have blunted their campaign at all the wrong times, but the challenge from Spurs for 3rd will likely get them over the line. Fulham are resigned to mid table mediocrity and looking forward to their Europa League fantasy, Manager of the Millennium Roy Hodgson should give his fringe players a chance.
Aston Villa v Blackburn
Villa have missed out yet again and O’Neill’s upfront style is said to be wearing thin in the Midlands. Overall they’re probably left in a table position that by most people’s reckoning is just about right. Big bad Sam has turned another side into a dogged, physical lot and has been his usual self throughout 2010. Ewood Park has become a fortress, but away from home is a different story. They may have had their “final” last week with a victory over Arsenal. Two of the biggest whinging managers will hopefully add some spice.
Bolton v Birmingham
Refer to previous two… Owen Coyle took some time to settle at the Reebok, but has steered the Trotters clear of any final day nerves. Bolton are strong at home and this could be cult figure Gary Cahill’s last outing in the strip, as he’s been linked with several top clubs. It’s difficult to think that the Blues only came up this season. Alex Mcleish has worked wonders and his boys are sitting pretty in the league. Next year will be the real test, however, and I doubt they’ll offer much ambition here.
Burnley v Tottenham
Spurs have to win and that’s enough for me. The promise of the biggest competition in Europe should be enough motivation. The long-suffering fans from North London, however, will not be so confident and will surely be longing for a finish above bitter rivals, Arsenal, for the first time in 15 years. Brian Laws at Burnley has been a miserable failure and will struggle to get anything out of their final appearance in the top flight for at least the next year and a half. The finances at Turf Moor are said to be stable, however, and if the Clarets manage to retain the majority of their experienced squad, a quick return in on the cards.
Chelsea v Wigan
As with their London neighbours, the equation is simple for Chelsea – win and the title returns to Stamford Bridge. Many of the players came out after their win at Anfield and claimed that a home victory to gain the title would be better than an away win. The experience of Drogba, Lampard and Ballack should be more than enough to swat away the butterflies and claim it. It seems no one has shut up about Wigan being only one of only a handful of teams to get the full 3 points against the Blues, but really that is only media spin. Mr Martinez and his hit and miss Lactics should be trailing within the first half. They are the tipper’s nightmare, however, as a team that could challenge anyone in Europe could turn up at the JJB and then a side worthy of League 2 play the next (eg against Tottenham)
Bet of the Day
Multi – Chelsea to beat Wigan @ into Chelsea to win the title (obviously) @
Everton v Portsmouth
This game is not a reason to so much as get out of bed for, let alone turn on the telly, or bother a write up. Nevertheless, the Toffees will look for a strong showing to cap off another over-achieving season. Several of their players such as the stylish Arteta will be looking to show their World Cup credentials for a last time, but really, there’ll be little to play for at Goodison. Portsmouth are about to kick off the Premier League fire sale of players and several of them will be looking to add a little value with a good showing. Avram Grant has become a fan favourite and his last game at the helm could bring a surprise result.
Hull v Liverpool
The two disappointments of the season face off at its conclusion. It is hard to say which team has been worse off… Hull have their manager on gardening duties (I’ll keep talking about that until I stop laughing), are relegated back to the Championship after only two tumultuous years and apparently they are bound for administration and player losses that would surely see them slide further down the divisions. Hull have lacked spirit and largely been uninspired. They’ll be desperate to give their fans a last hurrah. Anfield is a sorry mess. Benitez is set to go on an Italian vacation and many of their stars are squirming with unease. They’ve struggled at everything they’ve tried, whether it be League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League, Champions League or Premier League. They’re currently trying to sell the club and apparently their is nothing left in the transfer kitty to freshen the poor squad. Could this be the end of Liverpool as a top 4 side? Or is it only a blip on one of Europe’s most famous club’s history? Keep up to date with our write up here.
Manchester United v Stoke
United’s season has been hit and miss. Constantly looking like dropping out of the title race and then continually clawing their way back. It looks like their charge will fall agonisingly short. To save this from turning into a season review, the Red Devils will win here, possibly by more than 5, as they let out a lot of their frustration on the robust Stoke. It looks like Manchester will be titleless (titles that people actually care about only considered) over the world cup. Maybe a desperate Carrick or Berbatov will be looking for about 20 goals to save their careers at Old Trafford, but otherwise, nothing to watch here. Stoke are a team more unfashionable than your dad, but Pulis couldn’t care less. Recently, their blockade like defences have been breached with a number of off field incidents marring another highly successful campaign. Stoke should be in the league for a considerable time. (Unfortunately watching Delap and his throw ins will mar the league for at least another season.) Only watch this one if Chelsea somehow slip behind early. Watching United thwart a defensive team of Shawcross, Delap, Faye and whoever else it is will be agonising even for the neutral. As long as that prick Macheda doesn’t score the winner.
West Ham v Manchester City
Many of my City fans saw this as the defining game of their season. They simply refused to believe that a win against Tottenham would automatically mean Champions League football. Too many times have they suffered such heartbreak. Having lost at home, this game has lost importance, but if they harbour any hopes of 4th place then they’ll have to win. West Ham will be looking to forget about 2010 as soon as possible. A horror campaign saw them renew their Premier League status only last weekend. Following that, every player has been put up for sale except Scott Parker! West Ham have plenty of quality and it’s hard not to look at Mr Zola for answers. Expect Grant as manager, and Joe Cole to return next year, and the Hammers will be back challenging for Europe. Could be a draw here.
Wolves v Sunderland
Wolves could only classify their campaign as a success. Staying up was all they wanted and Mcarthy duly obliged. Without too much talent and without any flamboyance (comparative to Hull) Wolves stayed afloat for another year. This sets up two mouth watering clashes with the mighty West Brom next season and a dominance of Midlands football with 4 clubs in the top flight. Sunderland are dreadful away from home and dreadful at home. Darren Bent and Kenwyen Jones are add quality, and a few others such as Zenden and Cattermole have the pedigree, but without Bent’s goals they’d be down in the Championship. This will be the worst game of the season. DO NOT WATCH.