The Premier League weekend saw Chelsea extend their lead at the top while Manchester United moved into the top five.
Here, we look at five things we learned.
Will he push for a move?
Willian made only his 13th Premier League start of the season against Stoke on Saturday, scoring the opening goal. That represents just 46 per cent of Chelsea’s games which, for a player of his supreme quality, surely has to rankle a bit.
The Brazilian turns 29 in August and may start to feel, with good reason, that his future would be better served away from Stamford Bridge. He’s Champions League-level and will know he won’t be short of offers.
Ndidi was a clever buy
Paying £17m for a 20-year-old who has only played in the Belgian top-flight may have raised a few eyebrows in January but Leicester’s acquisition of Wilfred Ndidi may prove an astute purchase in the short and long term. He’s yet to really have a bad game for the Foxes and was a dominating presence in the midfield against West Ham on Saturday.
The search for N’Golo Kante MkII goes on but the Nigerian is the closest they’ve come to finding his successor. Expect his value to skyrocket over the next year.
Spotlight starts to fall on Bilic
Slaven Bilic’s strange season has escaped criticism as other managers have failed more obviously while West Ham’s relocation to the London Stadium seems to have bought him some time, but the Hammers are in a rut.
Three straight defeats have all-but ruled out any chance of European football next season while, defensively, their 52 goals conceded puts them in the four worst teams in the league. It’s difficult to know what kind of a team they are with no real identity or path to success at present.
Slaven Bilic: "It is very frustrating for us to lose. We didn't start well and what is really disappointing is the way we conceded 3 goals." pic.twitter.com/Gn3qYd87d0— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 18, 2017
Allardyce builds around Sakho
Sam Allardyce just knows how to grind it out and after a serious wobble at the start of the year, three consecutive wins has moved the Eagles out of the relegation zone.
Central to that has been the tried-and-trusted method of defensive organisation and January signing Mamadou Sakho has been nothing short of excellent. His inconsistency in possession meant he was never going to last under Jurgen Klopp but with Allardyce he can focus on the basics: heading, tackling, blocking and reading the play.
Crystal Palace in the Premier League with Mamadou Sakho in the side:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 18, 2017
3 clean sheets
Watford in freefall
The Hornets have lost their sting and a pair of wins against Arsenal and Burnley represent six of their nine points in 2017. They are slipping down the standings and with Palace and Leicester improving and Swansea picking up some points, Watford are in danger of being sucked right into the relegation mix.
It’s been seven games now since a clean sheet and that was against Middlesbrough.
Walter Mazzarri has reason to be a worried man.
Manchester United finally climbed above sixth place but needed a hand from their former goalkeeper, Victor Valdes.
Jose Mourinho’s side were holding on to a 2-1 lead against Middlesbrough when Antonio Valencia scored a fortuitous third goal for the visitors in injury time.
The right-back’s run down the flank was halted by Fabio who then played the ball back to the keeper with no danger in sight.
Valencia however, chose to chase down the ball to put Valdes under pressure and it paid off. The Spaniard slipped just as he was about to clear the ball, allowing the United defender to score into an empty net.
The goal secured a 3-1 win which moved United out of sixth place after a 133-day run.
Well smalling did his best to shaft us, thank you valdes pic.twitter.com/v67Xj6yLbC— MUFC RED KNIGHT (@MUFCRedKnight) March 19, 2017
Special agent Victor Valdes to the rescue. pic.twitter.com/JUNfdtW0TT— Babs (@Babs_SP) March 19, 2017
Iconic defender Carles Puyol has declared it is only a matter of time until Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola delivers the glowing and trophy-laden football the pair enjoyed together at Barcelona, despite a chastening exit from the Champions League.
Guardiola, 46, whose side face Liverpool on Sunday, has come in for criticism about his defensive organisation after a 3-1 second-leg defeat to Monaco in the round of 16 saw him fail to make the competition’s last-four for the first time.
This follows a debut season at Etihad Stadium in which an expensively-assembled squad has been unable to mount a sustained push in the Premier League’s title race.
As captain, Puyol lifted two Champions League trophies, a pair of FIFA Club World Cups, three La Ligas and two Copa del Reys alongside his revolutionary former boss from 2008-12. This record was at the forefront of the 38-year-old’s mind when quizzed about the City situation on Saturday night in a role as mentor for the du Football Champions finals at Dubai Mall.
“I think he is doing a good job,” said Puyol, who made 682 appearances in total for Barca plus claimed Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 during his 100 caps for Spain.
“It’s always tough arriving to a new league, with a new mentality and with a very different style of football. I am certain he will win titles with Man City in the future and that they will play brilliant football, the Pep style of play.
“You have to go step by step and have some patience.”
On Friday, Barca drew out perennial Serie A winners Juventus for a taxing quarter-final. It was a miracle they were still in the mix after history was made in the last round, coming back from 4-0 down against Paris Saint-Germain to epically win 6-1 and proceed.
“After the comeback Barcelona had in their last match, they are considered the favourites,” added Puyol. “After trailing 4-0, logically they had more possibilities to get eliminated than to advance.
“But they believed, they fought for it and they came back. And now they are favourites to win.
“Juventus are a very tough opponent and Barcelona have to play at a very high level to stop them.”
In contrast, Puyol was evasive about the identity of the next Barca coach, following ex-team-mate Luis Enrique’s decision to step aside in the summer.
He said: “Right now, I think about Luis Enrique who is the coach of the team. It’s not my job to be concerned with this, it’s something for the club to think about.”
In tandem with ex-Real Madrid and Spain stalwart Michel Salgado, Puyol was in Dubai to oversee the conclusion of a competition in which talented footballers in the UAE can win trials with La Liga clubs.
“I was surprised by the level of the players, both the boys and the girls, and some of them have chances to play in Spain,” said Puyol.