Eden Hazard anticipating exciting four-way fight for two Champions League places

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Hazard's gorgeous strike rescued a point for Chelsea.

Eden Hazard anticipates the four-way fight for two Champions League qualifying places to continue until the final day of the Premier League season.

Hazard rescued a point for Chelsea in a 1-1 draw with Wolves on Sunday, when Arsenal beat fellow top-four hopefuls Manchester United 2-0.

With Manchester City and Liverpool in a two-way title duel, there are four teams battling for the two remaining top-four spots.

Tottenham, who lost at Southampton on Saturday, have 61 points and Arsenal 60. United are on 58 and Chelsea 57, but with a game in hand.

Hazard told Chelsea TV: “It’s a good battle. Man City and Liverpool are far away, then there are four teams who want to be in the top four.

“It’s going to be a good race to the end. We have nine games to play now. We have to give everything.”

Chelsea next play Everton on Sunday, after Thursday’s Europa League last-16 second leg at Dynamo Kiev. They hold a 3-0 first-leg advantage.

The Blues lost at Wolves in December and Hazard had mixed feelings following his late intervention which salvaged a draw.

He added: “We lost away three months ago. The game was exactly the same. We created a couple of chances, but not enough.

“The good point is we gave everything until the end and we scored a goal. A bit of happiness, even if we are a bit sad.

“I like to score and then we win the game. I scored, we drew. It’s a bit disappointing.

“We need to keep going. We have a tough game on Thursday and then on Sunday. Let’s move forward, back in training, work together and try to win games.”

Wolves remained seventh and defender Romain Saiss rued the dropped points.

“It was very, very hard to concede this goal at the end,” Saiss told Wolves TV.

“Our plan was good. We tried to frustrate them and tried to do something when they made a mistake.

“We did it well, but unfortunately we didn’t keep the result till the end. We deserved more. We gave everything on the pitch.”

Wolves next face United – conquerors of Chelsea, last season’s winners – in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Saiss added: “We have to switch on for this game now. It’s an important game for us to get to the semi-final at Wembley.

“We play at home. We have to be ready for this game. We’ll try to do something great next Saturday.”

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Why Jesse Lingard motivated Arsenal players in Man United win, says Bernd Leno

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Bernd Leno revealed Jesse Lingard’s goal celebration in Arsenal‘s recent FA Cup defeat to Manchester United acted as motivation as the Gunners secured victory in Sunday’s Premier League clash between the top-four rivals.

A Granit Xhaka strike and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty saw Arsenal win 2-0 and end Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten domestic streak since taking caretaker charge at Old Trafford in December.

Arsenal leapfrog United into fourth place as a result as the chase for Champions League qualification took more twists with both Tottenham and Chelsea dropping points over the course of the weekend.

Lingard celebrated a goal in United’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth round win at the Emirates Stadium back in January by moonwalking in front of the Arsenal supporters.

The England international had previously scored twice in the league clash in north London last season and irked Arsenal fans by posting his recent celebration on Instagram with the location set as “dancefloor”.

Mesut Ozil appeared to reference Lingard in a post-match tweet on Sunday evening which read: “Dancefloor huh?! Superb performance! Brilliant result! Thank you Emirates Stadium! Proud to be a Gunner!”

Lingard missed the game as he nurses a hamstring injury but Leno, who enjoyed another fine afternoon in goal for Arsenal, admitted the forward’s previous antics had spurred on the hosts.

“I don’t know but in your mind you will never forget something like that, when somebody is celebrating,” he said when asked if the win was revenge for the FA Cup loss and Lingard’s dance.

“You don’t want to see it again so we were motivated and we knew before the game about our chance because Man United had one point than us.

“Now we have two points and that was enough motivation for us. We are in the top four and the other teams now wait for our mistakes.

“There are still eight games and we want to win every game but we have to focus on each one because the other teams will wait for small mistakes.

“We don’t play against the other top six teams so I think we can beat the others. The next game is against Newcastle at home and it is an opportunity to win and stay in the top four.”

United Young

The defeat leaves United outside the top four with eight games remaining, although captain Ashley Young admits the club would have taken that position earlier in the season when they were well off the pace under former boss Jose Mourinho.

“Yes, of course,” he told manutd.com when asked if the race for a top-four finish could go down to the last day of the campaign.

“But I think there are so many points to pick up, so many games left. For me, if we were talking back in October, saying that we were going to be fighting for fourth place, we would have taken that with where we were.

“But, on a personal level, and everyone in the dressing room, I think the club a size of United should be higher up the league and that’s where I see it, but right now, obviously, we’re talking about finishing in the top four and we’re going to do everything we can to do that.”

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Man City skipper Vincent Kompany insists Raheem Sterling is among best in the world

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Raheem Sterling and Vincent Kompany

Sterling hit a 13-minute hat-trick on Saturday as Manchester City took another step towards defending their Premier League title with a 3-1 defeat of Watford at the Etihad Stadium.

There was an offside debate over his first goal and his second was a tap-in, but his third highlighted his skill as he weaved into the area, cut back and fired past Ben Foster.

City captain Kompany said: “It’s incredible because his first year at City was tough, and then from the moment Pep (Guardiola) came in he just kicked on and went from strength to strength.

“For me, he is one of the best wingers in the world. He’s so important for us. To have the ability to unlock defences when they defend with so many bodies is the sign of a top, top, top player.”

Sterling’s quickfire treble shifted what had been a frustrating game decisively in City’s favour. As in their two previous games, the score was 0-0 at half-time and City, despite dominating possession, needed to work hard for openings.

“These kind of games are much trickier than what people can see from the outside,” said Kompany, who has featured in City’s last five games.

“It’s mentally demanding because it puts you to sleep that you have so much possession and are bouncing against the same wall.

“You can sometimes fall into a false sense of comfort because you don’t have anyone to mark and you have to be super, super careful.

“But we’ve done it against Bournemouth, against West Ham and we’ve done it again now. Hats off to the team.”

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola

City boss Pep Guardiola was more measured in his praise for Sterling, 24, who has now scored 20 goals for club and country this season.

“He scored three goals, we’re delighted, but he can do better,” said Guardiola.

“The first half was not the best performance from him, but it’s good when not playing at the top level to be consistent and score the three goals.”

Guardiola hailed midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as an “incredible player in all senses” but again expressed concern over the German’s contract situation.

The 28-year-old has not been an automatic starter under Guardiola and has just one season remaining on his present deal.

Guardiola said: “I would prefer him to stay but at the same time I want to feel he wants to stay too. If he doesn’t want to stay, he has to leave.”

Man City have never lost a game when Raheem Sterling has scored.

Man City have never lost a game when Raheem Sterling has scored.

Guardiola was frustrated to be pulled into a debate about refereeing over Sterling’s first goal. Sterling was initially flagged offside but the strike was eventually awarded because defender Daryl Janmaat touched the ball before him.

Arguments continued over whether the decision was the correct one and whether VAR might have helped.

Guardiola pointed out, however, for such instances rules needed to be clarified first.

He said: “If you need the interpretation of the referee, always these types of situations will happen. If it’s confused in the rules, that is the problem.”

Opposite number Javi Gracia agreed.

He said: “I don’t think VAR is the solution. I think first of all the solution is to have clear rules. After that, VAR can help referees.” 

Provided by Press Association Sport

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