The drama of week 27 had barely subsided before the 28th round of fixtures was upon us. Midweek Premier League fixtures are loved by everyone and this round of matches certainly didn’t disappoint.
Liverpool and Manchester City both won, meaning the Reds maintained their slender one point lead at the top of the table.
Tottenham fell further behind with their second successive defeat, this time at the hands of London rivals Chelsea, who are now three points away from fourth place.
Arsenal moved four points behind their north London rivals with a convincing victory over Bournemouth, whilst fifth placed Manchester United remained within touching distance of the Gunners with a 3-1 away win over Crystal Palace.
Everton’s win over Cardiff sees them leap into the top half of the table, whilst Leicester City’s victory over Brighton takes them one point behind tenth placed West Ham.
Newcastle’s second successive win eases their relegation fears, but Brighton are in real trouble, sitting only two points above 18th placed Cardiff.
Huddersfield won only their third match of the season against Wolves, giving the Terriers a glimmer of hope of survival.
Who made themselves a hero and who were the villains? Here are our winners and losers.
Gylfi Sigurdsson – Everton
Everton have been one of the most inconsistent sides in the top flight this season, but Sigurdsson has been their shining light.
The Icelandic international netted a brace to inspire the Toffees to victory in Wales against Cardiff, taking his total tally in the league this season to 11.
With Liverpool up next in the Merseyside derby, Everton fans will be quietly confident of coming away with a positive result.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool
Mane’s quick brace at Anfield opened the floodgates for the Reds against Watford, but special mention should go to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk. Both of Mane’s goals were expertly assisted by the impressive Arnold, whilst Van Dijk also netted twice in the 5-0 rout.
It seems Liverpool have regained their offensive swagger ahead of the crucial clash with Everton.
Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United
Injury-hit Manchester United needed someone to step up and deliver at Selhurst Park and boy did Lukaku do just that.
Two very well taken finishes gave United the platform to secure the three points, but it was his willingness to get on the ball that was most impressive.
Lukaku proved to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he still has the quality to hurt Premier League defences.
James Tarkowski – Burnley
In week 27, Tarkowski’s name was on the list of winners, but the Englishman endured a torrid evening at Selhurst Park.
He missed a glorious chance for the Clarets just before half-time and found it hard to contain Salomon Rondon.
Kieran Trippier – Tottenham
Trippier became a national hero when he curled in a delightful free kick for England in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia, but since, his club performances have deteriorated drastically.
The full-back scored a comical own goal at Stamford Bridge to give Chelsea a two-goal lead.
It was a lack of communication between Trippier and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, with the right-back passing the ball backwards and into his own net.
Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Mahrez was given a rare league start against West Ham, but he failed to make the most of the opportunity.
It looked like the Algerian had never played with his teammates before as he was not in sync with Kevin De Bruyne on several occasions.
Mahrez was hauled off ten minutes into the second half and with a performance like that, he probably won’t be starting many more matches in the near future.
Sergio Aguero scored a second-half penalty as champions City kept up the pressure on leaders Liverpool with a hard-fought 1-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday.
The result kept City within a point of the Reds at the top but, with third-placed Tottenham losing, there is now an eight-point gap to the rest of the field.
City manager Guardiola said: “We know with 10 games (to go), three points (a win), many things are going to happen.
“I think we are going to drop points, I think Liverpool are going to drop points. So we are going to see, until the end.
“It is important now to refresh and (have a) good recovery and prepare for the game against Bournemouth.”
City were frustrated by the Hammers, managed by their former boss Manuel Pellegrini, for an hour before breaking through after Bernardo Silva was adjudged to have been clipped in the box by Felipe Anderson.
Aguero made no mistake from the spot as he tucked home his 25th goal of the season in all competitions.
City deserved their victory having dominated from the outset. They had 20 attempts at goal to West Ham’s two, including an effort from David Silva that hit the post, and enjoyed 76-per-cent possession.
The visitors nevertheless defended superbly and Pellegrini felt his side were unfortunate, particularly to lose to a penalty he felt questionable.
The Chilean said: “To be generous, (it was) a little soft but (that is being) too generous. It was not a penalty.
“It was a play that happens a lot of times inside the box. In the other box Manuel Lanzini had exactly the same and he didn’t throw (himself) to the floor.
“If we had lost this game with another action then maybe you could accept it, but not that penalty.”
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Kepa Arrizabalaga paid back his team-mates by sitting out Chelsea‘s 2-0 win over Tottenham, Blues head coach Maurizio Sarri says.
Chelsea’s 4-3 shootout loss to Manchester City in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final was overshadowed by Kepa’s refusal to be substituted with penalties looming.
Initially downplayed as a “misunderstanding”, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper was subsequently fined one week’s wages and dropped to the bench as Willy Caballero took his place in a defeat of Spurs secured by Pedro’s strike and a Kieran Trippier own goal.
“I think it was the right decision,” Sarri said.
“Kepa made a big mistake, he paid with the club and then he had to pay with the team.”
Sarri insisted Kepa, a £71.6 million buy from Athletic Bilbao last summer, remains his first choice, but he will share goalkeeping duties with Willy Caballero in the next two games, with Dynamo Kiev following the Craven Cottage trip.
Sarri says Kepa discovered his demotion in the team meeting, while Caballero was untested as Tottenham’s troubles continued and Chelsea’s top-four hopes were reignited.
Spurs are third, seven points ahead of sixth-placed Chelsea, who have a game in hand, and will be looking over their shoulders, Sarri says.
He added: “I think maybe with this result we could involve Tottenham in this fight. The gap is very large, seven points, but we have one match (in hand).”
Sarri’s position has been precarious and he does not expect the Spurs win to end questions over his future.
“I spoke with the club two, three times in the last days. The problem wasn’t so big,” Sarri said.
“It’s not a big problem for me. In this job you are under pressure every week, if you’re lucky every six months. It’s normal.
“If you lose two matches, three matches in a row you’re under pressure. I think it’s normal for every coach, maybe something more in Chelsea.”
Spurs next face Arsenal on Saturday after following up the Burnley loss with another at Chelsea which did not feature a shot on target.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino had a simple answer for his side’s disappointing display at Chelsea.
“We didn’t shoot and I think we were not consistent enough,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned about Tottenham’s top-four place, with Arsenal four points behind in fourth and Manchester United a point further back, Pochettino said: “It’s not a drama.
“We need to be ready to compete and give our best. If we win, I’ll be happy.
“If we don’t win, I’ll be as unhappy as I am now.
“It’s about being calm. It won’t change my assessment of the players.
“We need to support them, lift them and help them to compete on Saturday.”
Harry Kane’s composure slipped at times, including in altercations with David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Pochettino added: “He fought today, ran today and was on the pitch. Perfect level on the pitch, physically and mentally.”
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