Saturday 14th May
15.00 Chelsea v Leicester
Hmm, not much else to write about, is there? Those in need of culling have been relegated, the winners have been declared and the only thing left to do is see if Manchester United can somehow claim an unlikely 4th spot from their City rivals. This Saturday’s roster is a bit like day 3 of a wedding, the most important thing has been done, everyone is tired and there’s really only crumbs left to eat. With all that being said, let’s get excited!
Last years champions will welcome the newest kings to their home patch, a ground that hasn’t had much opportunity for cheer this year. Chelsea’s flaccid defense of their trophy has been a bedraggled and undignified mess from the very first day. Every deal with Mourinho is understood to be a Faustian pact – get the trophies, sure but at what cost to the soul of the team? Unfortunately for Chelsea, the Portuguese manager only fulfilled the asshole side of the pact and his actions and paranoia made sure that Chelsea’s season would be the very definition of ‘one to forget’.
It’s difficult to think of a starker contrast to Chelsea’s self-evisceration than Leicester’s unlikely deification. Those with the ability to read or listen will know full well that the Foxes were 5000/1 to win the league this year, which is to say that next to no-one saw this cone coming. Exactly one year ago, this column was delighted that the season had come to an end, such were the dire levels of skill and quality on show. The BPL as a product (vomit) seemed to be in real danger of disappearing up its own, self-important arse; the clubs weren’t competitive in Europe, the big 4 were just plodding their way to dominance, inertia was creeping.
And then came this season. The quality may still be lacking when compared to other leagues but there is no denying that Leicester (and to a lesser extent, Tottenham) have shot some fire into the veins of the dying beast. One could be highly critical and claim that drop-off in quality amongst the big boys has allowed such a freak event to occur but at best, that theory is only partially true. And besides, sometimes you can just switch the brain off and enjoy the ride.
So, what of this match? Chelsea certainly looked like a proper football team in their recent match against Spurs but there were mitigating circumstances at play there which are unlikely to be apparent here. Leicester, when they should have been nursing an almighty hangover, went and easily beat a moribund Everton 3-0 last week. It’s hard to imagine that Chelsea will be able to put the breaks on them. BetFred have a very tempting 11/5 for a Leicester win.
15.00 Everton v Norwich
This is a tale of two miserable clubs. Earlier this week, Norwich’s relegation was confirmed, ironically by way of Everton’s result, as their 3-0 loss to Sunderland meant that the Black Cats stayed up at the Canaries’ expense. In the interim, the wonderfully-optimistic-in-the-face-of-destruction Roberto Martinez got the heave-ho and was sent packing. One could say ‘not a minute too soon’ but really it was four months too late.
There seems to be little reason to write about this match at all and, truth be told, this will probably be a short enough preview. Ask yourself a question: of these teams, who is the most terminally abject? Although Norwich’s standing as BPL team has been terminated, this column struggles to see them in quite as dim a light as it views Everton. Over the last ten games, only Aston Villa have gained less points than the Toffees. Only Sunderland in 17th and the relegated three have won less matches. We could go on but you get the gist.
From a personal point of view, this column is saddened to see Norwich go down. Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan are two of the Republic of Ireland’s best players and arguably by some stretch. That probably doesn’t speak well of the team’s chances in the Euros this summer. Another Norwich player who won’t like going down is Scottish player, Steven Naismith. Unlike his teammates, though, he has no football tournament to concern himself with this summer. His January transfer seemed a positive signing and he started very well for the club before tailing off dreadfully. Sadly for Norwich, the same could be said for too many of their players.
As you can see, there’s very little cheer about this fixture. Apart from, that is, the price going for a Norwich win. As we said above, in terms existing fight and spirit, Everton have close to none. For that reason alone, you should consider putting your money on the Canaries win. MarathonBet have the best price at 37/10.
15.00 Swansea v Manchester City
This tie lays claim to one of the matches that has some worthwhile outcome, for one of the sides at least. Should Manchester City win tomorrow, they will be guaranteed the last CL place. Should they draw, the same outcome will apply (they are two points ahead of Man Utd with a superior goal difference). However, if they were to lose and Man Utd were to win… Well, let’s just say that Pep Guardiola wouldn’t have to worry about losing to another Spanish team in the CL semifinals for another year at least.
Swansea were one of a number of teams occupying the lower rungs of the table around the turn of the year. After a bright start, things quickly became dark and Garry Monk was relieved of his duties as manager. Following some protracted messing with caretaker managers, the club signed wiley old campaigner, Francesco Guidolin, and this seemingly unassuming man (limited English might be the cause of that) quietly steered the Swans’ ship out of the stormy weather and into calmer seas.
They impressed with good wins against Liverpool and away to West Ham (3-1 and 4-1 respectively) on their last two outings and have been safe for some time. Guidolin, expected by some to leave after his six months, has been rewarded with a two year contract for his sterling efforts. Whilst that seems to make sense now, it is something of a gamble as there is a huge difference between parachuting in to save a season and engineering an entire league campaign. There is no doubting his pedigree but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Need we go into too much detail with regard to City? This column would argue not. They’ve coughed and spluttered their way through the season, occasionally brilliant but more often lackluster and labored. It nearly seems like a dream now but somehow they made it to CL semi-finals for the first time in their history and duly flopped against a relatively poor Real Madrid. There’ll be a new manager but quite a number of the current players will be following the old manager out the door.
City are the inconvenient underbelly of this season. That is, for all the wonder and joy surrounding Leicester’s triumph, City have been a joke of a team in terms of their application and desire. And yet, it’s highly likely that they will do enough to claim 4th place. Football, like the world, is rarely a fair place. Their endeavors in this regard will be greatly aided by injuries to key Swansea players like Williams and Gudjohnsen. The Swans come into this game in better form than City but the loss of their Icelandic talisman leaves a big hole.
The bookies likely have it right with most of them pricing City at 8/15 to win but if any of you fancy a swing another way, BetVictor have the draw at 15/4 whilst MarathonBet have a Swansea win at 59/10. It’s your dime, spend it how you choose.
Until next season, have yourself a mighty fine summer.