The big story in the Premier League this weekend was the relegation battle. Two teams—Burnley and QPR—are already out, leaving one spot left. Now, five clubs are scrambling not to be “It” in what has to be the world’s worst game of Musical Chairs.
Elsewhere this weekend, the Top 4 race is effectively over, Newcastle might finally be snapping out of a long slump, and Chelsea-Liverpool had all the dignity and subtlety of an internet flame war. If you missed anything this weekend, we’ll get you caught up.
(Quick note, there’s one more game left in Matchweek 36. Arsenal host Swansea this afternoon as the home side try to gun for that sweet, sweet moral victory called Second Place. Kickoff is at 2:45pm EST, and you can check it out on NBC Sports Network)
Coming to the end of his second season at Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini still seems like the ugly duckling of the squad. While Louis van Gaal has found ways to make him useful in United’s set-up, fans still tend to see him as a sad symbol of the club’s subpar 2013-14 season (with all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that entails). If you’re the kind of person who believes in karma, it’s apropos that Fellaini headed in the goal that gave the Red Devils the win over Crystal Palace and, with it, practically guaranteed Champions League qualification for next season. While the precise ordering of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place still needs to be sorted out—next week’s clash between United and Arsenal will be huge as far as that’s concerned—the Top 4 as it stands right now will be the Top 4 when the season’s finished.
Poor Burnley. They played away at Hull this weekend in a huge relegation six-pointer, knowing as they came out of the tunnel knowing that a draw or a loss meant certain relegation. Though even a win wouldn’t be enough if other results went against them, Burnley were going to give it everything they had. And they did, defending well away from home against a physically tough (though otherwise unimpressive) Hull side, and capping off their effort with a goal from Danny Ings off a half-volley from close range. Ings and his teammates ran over to the away supporters to celebrate, with faint hope of avoiding the drop giving way to rhapsodic triumph. If they could hang on and get a little help along the way, Burnley might just stay alive just one more week! The scoreline did stay 1-0, but, alas, the results from Everton-Sunderland and Newcastle-West Brom ensured the three points wouldn’t be enough to save the Clarets. Burnley Football Club are officially relegated from the Premier League. But at least they went down swinging. Unlike, say…
No one expects miracles out of teams near the bottom of the table (though they do happen), but you do expect them to put up a fight before the bell tolls, like Burnley did. QPR quite figuratively rolled over and died. Getting a result against Manchester City wasn’t going to be easy, but it wasn’t impossible. Weaker teams have done it this season. Just ask Middlesbrough. Instead, Rangers shipped six goals at the Etihad, and with the possible exception of the fifth goal- Milner was pretty clearly offside- they were made possible by shoddy defending and JV-level mistakes. It was the kind of performance where, if they weren’t actually in danger of relegation, they would deserve to go down based on that one game. As it is, second-from-bottom QPR made reaching safety a mathematical impossibility. And good gourd do they deserve it.
Hey look at that! Newcastle didn’t lose a game! They’ve stopped the rot! Though it wasn’t a great performance by any stretch as Newcastle conceded a weak goal in the first half, Ayoze Pérez managed to equalize before halftime, enough for Newcastle to barely avoid a tenth straight loss. Yet even the hard won point wasn’t a huge help for the Magpies. Newcastle are in 17th place, two points ahead of Hull City with two games left. They also have a much easier run-in than Hull—Newcastle play already-doomed QPR and West Ham, while Hull’s season ends away at Spurs and then at home to Manchester United. Based on that, Newcastle might just stay up.
Every year Sunderland’s Premier League campaign consists of doing just enough to avoid relegation and not a whole lot more. That said, their away win against Everton was nothing to sneeze at. Twenty-nine year old Danny Graham scored his first goal for the Black Cats early in the second half (this is your cue to jump on the #DannyGraham4England bandwagon) before Jermain Defoe served helped deflect in Sunderland’s second in the dying minutes. The club are level on points with northeast rivals Newcastle but with a game in hand and a slightly better goal difference. Mathematically-speaking they’re still staring down the barrel; realistically, they’ll probably skate through. Like always.
Follow-up question: How did they decide who had to go to the print shop and have these done up?