EPL Week 31 – Liverpool eyes Champions League, Salah the Golden Boot

Premier League Week 31 will forever be known to anybody that watched it as the week the Premier League forgot. Unless you’re a fan of one of the eight teams that did play, you were probably focused on the FA Cup quarter-final games or the many MLS games that kicked off across the nation.

MN United fc

I was at TCF Bank Stadium to watch Minnesota United beat Chicago Fire 2-1. Unfortunately, every goal was missed because American soccer fans can’t seem to grasp the fact that a 40ft flag waving behind the goal is a giant distraction, but that’s a story for another time. I’ll just say we were at a soccer game, not a bloody music festival.

As I drank more and continuously told people that we were in fact at a soccer game and not a music festival, Liverpool completely dismantled Watford by five goals to push closer to a guaranteed Champions League qualification spot in the league.

Fantasy Football players rejoiced in learning that four of the five goals came from Mo Salah as he opened up a gap of his own, hoping to become the first Egyptian player to win the Golden Boot Award for most goals in a Premier League season.

Not only did Salah score four of the goals, he also assisted Roberto Firmino for his audacious back-heeled attempt, and the floodgates were open.

Mo Salah

Watford can have little to say after a result like that. It’s a thrashing that may warrant a couple changes to the squad for their next game against Bournemouth, but credit has to go to Liverpool for how well they performed, especially after losing their previous game.

The win puts Liverpool two points clear of Tottenham and bumps them up to 3rd place. Tottenham, who just lost star striker Harry Kane till April, play Chelsea in the league next, who need a win to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive.

It sets up what should be a thrilling last few weeks to a Premier League season that will definitely have a top four fight. Currently, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham make up 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively, but Chelsea could be hot on the tails of Tottenham if they are able to beat them next weekend.

Arsenal sit in 6th and must try to hold on to that position as they can be under no illusions that they have a chance to qualify for the Champions League at this point. Burnley are only five points off the Gooners, but both teams have a relatively “easy” run in for the last eight weeks of the season, so I wouldn’t expect much movement unless Arsenal genuinely capitulate.

Crystal Palace were able to lift a heavy weight off their shoulders and heap it on to the four teams below them by beating Huddersfield 2-0 in “the lost weekend.”

A Luka Milivojevic penalty sealed the deal later on in the second half after James Tomkins opened the scoring.

Roy Hodgson

Roy Hodgson said the win was “vitally important,” especially with West Ham and Southampton below them with a game in hand. The win puts pressure on those two teams to get a result in their next game, and luckily for the neutral fan, they play each other next. Don’t you love it when things work out like that?

On the opposite ends of the spectrum, Huddersfield look bereft of confidence after failing to get a win in either of their recent matches against lower table opposition. They drew against Swansea in week 30, and this loss means that their relegation odds have been slashed despite still having one foot in the Premier League for next season.

David Wagner may find himself out of a job if he is to go back down to the Championship, but the German should have no problems finding something else in the Premier League or even abroad, having shown some brilliance this season that would be deserving of a bigger and better job.

With a relegation battle hotting up by the minute, Palace fans will be breathing a sigh of relief as they escape from the drop zone for the time being, and the win put them within three points of almost guaranteed safety in 13th. There’s a long way to go, however, so they won’t want to get ahead of themselves before facing Liverpool next week.

West Brom sit on 20 points and are presumably going to take that first relegation spot, but only four points separate 15th and 19th, so as teams scramble to get to the finish line with their heads above water, we’re all definitely in for a treat, it’s just a shame that the international break had to come and ruin our fun.

 

Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about English Premier League football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular professional sports league in the world. Contact him at ryanoldhamntw@gmail.com

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