Taken from this week's issue
FOLLOWING last weekend’s results we’re now firmly on the last lap with regard to the end of this Covid-blighted season; so what’s left to play for? If we accept that Pep Guardiola’s Citeh are certs for the title and United favourites for second place, then we are left with no fewer than at least six teams chasing the last two Champions League places. Barring a late season collapse as per last season, Leicester should make it which leaves West Ham, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, and Everton fighting for the last spot. Of these teams the Hammers are in the best form at the moment while Spurs, Liverpool and Everton are not having the best time of it defensively. At the bottom Sheffield United are gone and you have to say that, despite thrashing Chelsea last weekend, so are West Brom, which leaves Fulham, Newcastle and, at a pinch, Brighton fighting to avoid the drop. Callum Wilson’s expected return may be the difference maker for Newcastle though the final game of the season between Fulham and Newcastle could be massive.
In the Championship Norwich are about to do their usual promotion party trick and Watford should join them back in the top division, which leaves Brentford, Swansea, Barnsley, Reading, and Bournemouth in the running for the play-offs. At the bottom Wycombe look doomed but after them it’s confusing; let’s just say that Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Birmingham, Coventry, Huddersfield and Derby have some work to do over the next few weeks.
Hull and Peterborough are in pole position but under new ownership Sunderland are coming on strong and may yet clinch automatic promotion with Pompey, Blackpool and Lincoln looking good for the play-offs.
The story here is that Bolton may just be on their way back from the doldrums as they are level on points with Tranmere for the third automatic promotion place; Cambridge and Cheltenham are the current top two and that is unlikely to change.
Team of the week
Emiliano Martinez Villa, Jacob Murphy Newcastle, Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool, Ruben Dias Citeh, Matheus Pereira West Brom, Kevin De Bruyne Citeh, Diogo Jota Liverpool, Danny Ings Southampton, Mbaye Diagne West Brom, Harry Kane Spurs, Jesse Lingard West Ham. Manager: Sam Allardyce, West Brom.
Player of the week: Jesse Lingard. He was absolutely superb as West Ham won at Wolves on Monday. If he keeps up this sort of form then the east London travellers may well find themselves in the Champions League next season.
This week’s games
Premier League today 2:30; Citeh vs Leeds. 5pm; Liverpool vs Villa. 7:30 Palace vs Chelsea. Tomorrow 2pm; Burnley vs Newcastle. 4:05; West Ham vs Leicester. 6:30; Spurs vs United. 9pm; Sheffield United vs Arsenal. Monday 8pm; West Brom vs Southampton. 10:15; Brighton vs Everton. Friday 10pm; Everton vs Spurs. Championship today 5pm; Derby vs Norwich. Selected Scotland today 5pm; Celtic vs Livingston. Tomorrow 5pm; Rangers vs Hibs. Champions League quarter finals second legs Tuesday 10pm; Chelsea (2) vs (0) Porto, Paris St Germain (3) vs (2) Bayern Munich. Wednesday 10pm; Borussia Dortmund (1) vs (2) Manchester City, Liverpool (1) vs (3) Real Madrid. Europa League quarter finals second legs Thursday 10pm; Manchester United vs Granada, Roma vs Ajax, Slavia Prague vs Arsenal, Villarreal vs Dinamo Zagreb. Games to watch; West Ham vs Leicester, Spurs vs United, and Everton vs Spurs.
David Moyes’ Hammers are in terrific form of late, while last weekend’s defeat to Citeh notwithstanding Leicester are also playing well; three points will be massive for either club in their search for the top four. Ridiculous as it is, Spurs are still in with a shout of making the top four but unless at least four points are secured over these two fixtures than that hope will surely be gone. I imagine you’d get good odds on United getting a penalty tomorrow, so Harry Kane will have to once again carry Spurs on his back though hopefully Son will rediscover his scoring touch which has been missing of late. Inconsistent Everton, meanwhile, still harbour top four hopes of their own and wins over Brighton and Spurs will see them firmly in the mix.
Last week I posed two questions: who am I? In 1952 I won my first FA Cup, and in 1967 I won a major European trophy and made my international debut in a rather famous match at the age of 36. Bonus question: most football saddos, particularly those who are into pub quizzes, know that ex-Spurs Steve Archibald was the first player to appear on Top of the Pops twice on the same night, but who was the second player to perform the same feat? The answer to number one is Ronnie Simpson, who won the FA Cup with Newcastle in 1952 and 1955. Twelve years later he was one of the Lisbon Lions as Celtic beat Inter Milan to win the European Cup. He followed that up by being in the Scotland side that beat Alf Ramsey’s World Cup winners 3-2 at Wembley and in doing so became the “unofficial” World Champions. The Top of the Pops question was all about the running order on the night: first up were Spurs singing their FA Cup final song Tottenham Tottenham, followed by the 1982 Scotland squad’s rendition of We have a Dream – both songs featured Steve Archibald. But later on it was England’s turn to make fools of themselves and up they got on the stage to perform their World Cup song This Time, making Glenn Hoddle, who like Archibald was on earlier with Spurs, the second player to perform for the second time in one evening. This week: what connects the 1971 FA Cup final and Jimmy Hill?
LATE last Saturday night I received the shocking news that Lapta resident and my good friend David Shepherd had been killed in an accident while walking home from Jessic Bar and Restaurant. Dave was a pleasure to know, who would do anything for anybody as I was to find out on the many occasions he helped me out, be it airport runs, help with electrical problems, and the loan of his car many times when mine was off the road. Many an hour was spent with him over a few Efes’ putting the world to rights in lively oft-times vigorous debate, but there was no side to him he was just such a nice guy. Mrs Walker and I will miss him terribly as will an awful lot of people. Commiserations to his family in England, and friends John and Helen, Ron and Linda, Deniz, Katie, Kayden, Mus and Karen, and all who were fortunate enough to know this very special man. RIP Shep.