It may not be the best league in the world in terms of quality, but the Premier League’s entertainment factor cannot be brought into question. Few matches around the world could have matched the emotional rollercoaster that was Leicester’s enthralling draw with West Ham on Sunday afternoon.
It was a weekend packed with potentially season-defining encounters, and with Sunderland prospering in that proverbial ‘relegation six-pointer’ with Norwich matters at both ends of the league table appear to have been blown wide open once again.
The Title Race
A ‘mind-boggling’ performance by referee Jon Moss overshadowed Leicester’s 2-2 draw with West Ham and offered a lifeline to Spurs in their quest for the Premier League title.
That assessment was made by Alan Shearer following a pulsating clash which featured controversial penalties awarded, seemingly clear-cut appeals turned down and a red card for ‘simulation’ for Jamie Vardy.
That last bit is the most confounding for Foxes fans: Vardy appeared to abuse Moss as he left the field (the picture evidence is rather damning), and if Moss makes an official statement confirming such then the England striker’s ban could be extended. He will already miss his side’s clash with Swansea on Sunday.
All of the above means that Spurs can sneak their way into contention with a positive result against Stoke on Monday evening, although a trip to the Britannia Stadium is tricky at the best of times.
Mind you, this is a Tottenham team that has only lost two away games all season, and a Stoke side that has tasted defeat six times on home soil this term. But the Potteries outfit have avoided a loss against Spurs in seven of their last ten meetings, with four wins and three draws, and realistically Mauricio Pochettino’s men need a victory to help close the gap on Leicester to five points. They clearly have their work cut out doing so however.
The Relegation Dogfight
It would be an act of escapology on a par with Steve McQueen’s famous disappearance in The Great Escape and anything that noted slippery customer Houdini achieved in his career, but victory over Swansea on Saturday has given Newcastle United hope of avoiding a potentially catastrophic relegation to the Championship.
They have moved onto 28 points – just three behind the currently safe Norwich with a game in hand, while their North East foe find themselves in a similar position after a crushing 3-0 win over the Canaries on Saturday lunchtime.
What you normally find at this time of the season is that the fixture list is almost of irrelevance. Teams with something to play for generally beat those with nothing but a beach holiday to look forward to, so Newcastle’s date with Manchester City on Tuesday – themselves thinking ahead to next week’s Champions League semi final date with Real Madrid – will hold no fear for the Magpies. A subsequent run that takes in Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa as opponents is a mixed bag but one from which points can be earned.
It’s not pretty by any means at times but Sunderland have avoided defeat in seven of their last ten outings, and point accumulation at this time of year is crucial. They are just one point from safety with a game in hand, but in welcoming Arsenal and Chelsea to the Stadium of Light in their next two games they may have a problem. Trips to Stoke and Watford perhaps offer a better chance of success.
It’s Norwich for whom the bells may be tolling soon as they face dates with Arsenal and Manchester United in the coming weeks, although in truth it is their May 11 date with destiny against Watford that could prove decisive. The ‘Relegation Treble’ tricast of Villa/Newcastle/Norwich at Evens appears to be the smart money at the moment.