Premier League hits and misses: Chelsea's Champions League hopes at risk after Sheffield United loss

12/07/20 10:37pm

Chelsea`s Champions League hopes at risk?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Sheffield United`s win over Chelsea
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Sheffield United`s win over Chelsea

Chelsea have been superb at times since the Premier League restart, beating Manchester City last month and winning four of their first five games, but the 3-2 loss at West Ham was a reminder of their enduring frailties and Saturday`s dismal defeat by Sheffield United was another.

The Blues have already strengthened their attacking options in advance of the summer transfer window, agreeing deals for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, but their error-strewn display at Bramall Lane underlined the need for a defensive overhaul and, even more worryingly, the result might put their hopes of Champions League qualification at risk.

Frank Lampard`s side sit third but remain just a point clear of Leicester despite the Foxes` recent collapse. And on Monday night, Chelsea could slip further back when an in-form Manchester United play Southampton.

This weekend`s stumble will becomes more of a problem if Manchester City are successful in overturning their Champions League ban. The result of City`s appeal is due to be confirmed at 9.30am on Monday. If they are successful - and Pep Guardiola certainly seems confident - then a fifth-placed finish will not be good enough to clinch Champions League qualification this season.

That could be a problem for Chelsea on the evidence of their performance against Sheffield United, especially with a home game against Wolves and a difficult trip to Liverpool still to come. A Champions League challenge that appeared to be progressing serenely only two weeks ago suddenly seems in danger of petering out.
Nick Wright

Mourinho haunts Arsenal again

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham`s win over Arsenal in the Premier League
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham`s win over Arsenal in the Premier League

For much of Sunday`s north London derby - the first at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - the Gunners finally seemed to have cracked it. Unbeaten in five ahead of their trip across north London, Arsenal looked on course for another encouraging stride in the right direction under Mikel Arteta.

Alexandre Lacazette rifled them into the lead, and they looked to have got the defensive mistake that gifted Spurs their equaliser out of their system as they mounted a push for a second-half winner, which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came within the width of the post of scoring.

But just as he had during Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery`s reigns, up popped Jose Mourinho once again, only this time - for the first time - he resurfaced in one of two games the Gunners simply have to win each and every season.

Arsenal
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta after the defeat at Tottenham

The Spurs performance was far from vintage, but the result had all the hallmarks of the Mourinho and what he does best. Mourinho seems to reserve something special for Arsenal, as his now 10-game unbeaten home record against the Gunners will attest.

Winning against Spurs is something Arsenal are accustomed too, but beating Mourinho in his own back yard remains unattainable. For Arteta and Arsenal, it`s back to the drawing board once again.
Jack Wilkinson

Leicester`s good work slowly unravelling

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Bournemouth`s win over Leicester in the Premier League.
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Bournemouth`s win over Leicester in the Premier League.

Leicester are still firmly in the hunt to qualify for next season`s Champions League with three games left to play this season. If you had have offered Brendan Rodgers that position before the season, he would have snapped your hand off for it.

However, the Foxes, whose Champions League fate is now out of their own hands, have badly struggled for form since the Premier League`s restart and following their incredible collapse at struggling Bournemouth, they are in danger of undoing all their good work since the beginning of the season.

Leicester, who were billed as Liverpool`s closest challengers earlier in the season in some quarters, have now lost two of their last three Premier League games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone (W1), which is as many defeats as in their previous 20 such matches, and Rodgers knows he needs a response from his side with three massive games around the corner.

We`ll be back in tomorrow with a huge disappointment, but we can`t dwell on it because we have a big game on Thursday, he said following the defeat at Bournemouth. We missed a huge opportunity to jump into third. I`ve always believed. We have to worry to play better football because we were way off it.

Leicester will need a quick response because their final three games do not get any easier. Sheffield United are the visitors on Thursday before a trip to Tottenham, both games are live on Sky Sports, before what could be a decisive final day clash against Manchester United.

Should United beat Southampton on MNF, Leicester may need three wins from three to stay in the top four but with Crystal Palace and Aston Villa the only two teams they have beaten since February, the top four is starting to look like a tough ask.
Oliver Yew

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Leicester`s Brendan Rodgers refuses to blame Kasper Schmeichel for the defeat at Bournemouth as he`s `bailed them out` several times this season.
Leicester`s Brendan Rodgers refuses to blame Kasper Schmeichel for the defeat at Bournemouth as he`s `bailed them out` several times this season.

Podence changes complexion at Wolves

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Wolves` win against Everton
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Wolves` win against Everton

Given that Wolves are averaging fewer than three substitutions since the restart despite now being permitted to make five, Nuno Espirito Santo`s three changes to the starting line-up for the visit of Everton on Sunday represented a dramatic overhaul by his standards.

He was rewarded in style.

Daniel Podence, making his first Premier League start, cleverly won the penalty for the opener before Leander Dendoncker headed in Pedro Neto`s free-kick to double the lead. The trio who had been brought into the team added much-needed energy to Wolves` play.

The result was a deserved 3-0 victory against an insipid Everton side at Molineux, breathing fresh life into their chase for the Champions League places after two disappointing defeats.

Nuno operates with a small squad but Podence`s impact, in particular, is a welcome reminder that he does have options. The diminutive dribbler has had to be patient in waiting for his chance but he could have a huge say in this final fortnight of the season.
Adam Bate

City and Sterling hitting form at just the right time

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City`s win at Brighton in the Premier League
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City`s win at Brighton in the Premier League

While hopes of lifting the Premier League title were ended a long time ago, Manchester City still hope to add Champions League and FA Cup trophies to the Carabao Cup they won in February.

And they are hitting form at just the right time.

Pep Guardiola`s side have now won their last two Premier League games by five or more goals, the first time this has happened in the Premier League since City themselves did so in three consecutive games in September 2017.

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Pep Guardiola says his team are now ready for the final stages of the season following their emphatic win over Brighton
Pep Guardiola says his team are now ready for the final stages of the season following their emphatic win over Brighton

In Raheem Sterling, they also have a player having the best season of his career to date.

The 25-year-old has scored 27 goals in all competitions for City this term. He now has seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions since the restart and he is hungry for more than just goals before this season ends.

The most important thing to me is the value of these goals, that they add to the team, he told Sky Sports. At the end of the day, we`re trying to win the FA Cup final and win the Champions League as well, otherwise these goals don`t really mean anything.

In this form, it`s difficult to back against Sterling and City finishing the season on a high.
Oliver Yew

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