Chelsea hunt down Spurs, Wenger makes final Old Trafford trip
Deposed champions Chelsea have Tottenham Hotspur in their sights as they aim to end their season on a high while the Premier League’s bottom three are eyeing a dramatic escape.
With the title done and dusted, champions Manchester City are now left chasing records but there are still plenty of issues left to be decided at both ends of the table.
Here are three talking points ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
Chelsea target Tottenham
Chelsea, full of confidence after reaching the FA Cup final, have not given up hope of catching Tottenham in fourth place in the Premier League as they prepare to travel to Swansea City.
Antonio Conte’s side looked out of the running for the Champions League places a few weeks ago but two wins combined with a defeat and draw for Spurs have left them just five points adrift of their London rivals with four games to go.
Mauricio Pochettino must find a way to lift his disappointed team after they squandered a lead against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final last week to extend their run of trophyless seasons to 10.
The Spurs boss started speculation over his future after Tottenham’s eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat, saying the club “need more time, of course with me or another”. But he knows it is imperative they reach the Champions League for the third season running.
Wenger mends Old Trafford ties
Arsene Wenger’s clashes with Alex Ferguson defined an era within the Premier League era and his relationship with current Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has been laced with bitterness.
But this Sunday the outgoing Arsenal boss takes his team to Old Trafford for the final time with words of friendship from both ringing in his ears.
Ferguson said he felt “proud to have been a rival, colleague and friend” of Wenger after the 68-year-old announced he was stepping down at the end of the season.
“We are friends now, Alex Ferguson and myself,” Wenger said this week, confirming the two had put their fierce rivalry behind them.
Mourinho also held out the hand of friendship.
“If he respects me even 50 per cent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” he told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him.
“But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”
Southampton boss Mark Hughes knows he is running out of time if he wants to avoid the nightmare scenario of managing two relegated clubs in the same season.
Southampton, with four games remaining, host Bournemouth on Saturday after a draw with Leicester City halted a run of four consecutive defeats.
Hughes’s former club Stoke City and even West Bromwich Albion have also stopped the rot in recent weeks but they have just three games left to save themselves, with Stoke travelling to Liverpool.
West Brom, eight points from safety, appear doomed barring a miracle and it is difficult to see Stoke mustering enough points to survive but Hughes is clinging on to hope and a win for Saints could drag Swansea, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Crystal Palace into the relegation mix.
“Our fixtures have been difficult since I’ve been here, one home game, so it’s not been easy,” said the Southampton boss, who has top scorer Charlie Austin fit again after injury.
“Clearly now we need performances and results. Charlie is fine, he’s available. We’re pleased with what he’s showing. He’s a guy that will create chances and test goalkeepers, that is what we need. Given a run of games, Charlie will always score goals.”
Saturday (1400 GMT unless stated)
Liverpool v Stoke (1130), Burnley v Brighton, Crystal Palace v Leicester, Huddersfield v Everton, Newcastle v West Brom, Southampton v Bournemouth, Swansea v Chelsea (1630)
West Ham v Manchester City (1315), Manchester United v Arsenal (1530)
Tottenham v Watford (1900)