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Taking it to the wire

Championship Sunday is here, folks! For the first time in at least three seasons, every mini-duel within the Premier League table is in the balance, especially that fight for the title between Manchester City and Liverpool.

Where there's life there's hope: Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson reacts after the win away to Southampton in midweek brought them within a point of Manchester City with one round of fixtures remaining (Photograph by Frank Augstein/AP)

Fantasy managers make one final push to become regional and club champions, and above all, world Fantasy Premier League champion. Brentford midfielder Christian Eriksen, whose future remains uncertain, and Brighton defender Marc Cucurella are solid, medium-priced assets to select on this hectic day, and both will have a say in the outcome of the relegation battle. Heading into the final matchday, Martyn C and his team, Unintended Sub, lead the overall table with 2,611 points, while Stu Burton and Auba ‘imy! head the monthly tally with 242 points.


All kick-offs at noon

Arsenal v Everton

Arsenal have dropped the ball on their ambition to qualify for the Champions League next term, losing five of their past eight games, including the 2-0 away defeat to Newcastle on Monday. Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey continue to miss out with knee and thigh injuries. Takehiro Tomiyasu is a doubt with a muscle strain.

Everton confirmed survival yesterday with a dramatic 3-2 win at home to Crystal Palace, coming from two down. It made irrelevant defeat by Brentford by the same scoreline last weekend. Jarrad Branthwaite and Salomon Rondon are both suspended, with Nathan Patterson and Andros Townsend also out. Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Ben Godfrey are doubts.

Prediction: 3-2

Brentford v Leeds United

Brentford could prove the team story of the season, with manager Thomas Frank nominated for Manager of the Season, amassing 46 total points. They will miss Mathias Jorgensen for the visit of Leeds. Ethan Pinnock (hamstring), Saman Ghoddos and Frank Onyeka are serious doubts, the latter two with ankle injuries.

Leeds earned a valuable last-minute home draw with Brighton, courtesy of a header by Pascal Struijk in the second minute of stoppage time, to edge out of the bottom three by one point. Luke Ayling and Daniel James are suspended. Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts, Adam Forshaw and youngster Crysensio Summerville are also out. Patrick Bamford is unlikely to feature for American head coach Jesse Marsch.

The reverse fixture, their first-ever Premier League meeting, ended in a 2-2 stalemate at Elland Road.

Prediction: 1-2

Brighton & Hove Albion v West Ham United

Brighton will achieve their highest Premier League points total and league position at the conclusion of play on Sunday; the Seagulls could finish as high as ninth with 51 points. Jakub Moder is still out with a knee injury, while Enock Mwepu and Jeremy Sarmiento are doubts with groin and hamstring injuries respectively.

West Ham remain in contention for a Europa League spot, despite relinquishing a two-goal half-time lead to draw 2-2 at home to Manchester City. Angelo Ogbonna is still out with a knee injury, while Said Benrahma is doubtful with an ankle injury.

The Hammers must win to stand a chance of qualifying for Europe for the second season in a row, but they have yet to win in nine previous meetings with the South Coast side, drawing 1-1 on their last two visits to the Amex Stadium.

Prediction: 2-2

Burnley v Newcastle United

Burnley are stuttering on the edge of the drop zone after losing 1-0 away to Tottenham and drawing 1-1 away to Aston Villa yesterday. They will miss Matt Lowton, who was sent off yesterday, as well as Ashley Westwood, Johan Gudmundsson and Matej Vydra for their final home game of the season. James Tarkowski and Jay Rodriguez are further doubts for caretaker manager Mike Jackson.

Newcastle dominated Arsenal 2-0 at home to move up to 46 points with their sixth victory in eight games. They could finish in their highest position in a decade. Joe Willock and Jonjo Shelvey are out with knee and calf injuries respectively. Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schär and Chris Wood are doubts. Kieran Trippier could return after a lengthy absence because of a foot injury.

The Clarets must match Leeds’s result to stay up, but the Magpies have won five of the previous 11 meetings.

Prediction: 1-1

Chelsea v Watford

Chelsea have endured a trying season under Thomas Tuchel, losing two finals and just about clinching a top-four finish with two games remaining. Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi remain out for the German coach. Andreas Christensen, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are all doubts.

Watford were officially relegated following a 1-0 away defeat to Crystal Palace a few weeks ago. Manager Roy Hodgson has a whole list of injuries to contend with on final day. Tom Cleverley, Ismaila Sarr, Imran Louza, Juraj Kucka, Emmanuel Dennis, Cucho Hernandez and Shaqai Forde are out. Kiko Femenia, Josh King, Nicolas Nkoulou and Samir are doubts.

The Blues, who have won 11 of 15 meetings, will secure automatic Champions League qualification with a draw.

Prediction: 2-0

Crystal Palace v Manchester United

Crystal Palace have gone from strength to strength in the new image of manager Patrick Vieira this term. The Eagles could finish with their highest points total in a 38-game league season. Nathan Ferguson and Michael Olise will be out, while James McArthur is a serious doubt with a muscle injury.

Manchester United must win to solidify their Europa League spot for next season; they have had two weeks off since being thrashed 4-0 away to Brighton on May 7. Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford are doubts.

The Red Devils were held to a 0-0 draw in this fixture last season, but have a favourable record against the South London side, winning 18 of 25 overall meetings.

Prediction: 1-2

Leicester City v Southampton

Leicester City have struggled to get going under Brendan Rodgers this season and could end with their third-fewest points tally since their remarkable league title in 2015-16. Ryan Bertrand and Wilfried Ndidi are out with knee injuries for their final home game of 2021-22, while Hamza Choudhury and Ricardo Pereira are doubts for the Foxes.

Southampton pushed Liverpool really close, but ultimately succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat on Tuesday. Romain Perraud and Tino Livramento are out with leg injuries, while Fraser Forster is a doubt with a back injury.

Leicester have won 12 of the previous 31 meetings, including the historic 9-0 at St Mary’s in October 2019.

Prediction: 3-1

Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Liverpool are battling to complete a quadruple to mark the most historic term in English football history, but they need to overturn a six-goal deficit to stand a chance of winning the league title. Key starters Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and fringe defender Joe Gomez are doubts.

Wolves could complete the season with their second-highest Premier League finish, despite going winless in their past five games. Nelson Semedo and Max Kilman are out, while Romain Saiss is a doubt with a minor knock.

Must-win for Jürgen Klopp’s charges, although even if they drop points this will be dubbed a successful season should they win the Champions League six days later. This weekend’s visitors have won just once in 15 meetings with the Reds — losing 12 — though it did come at Anfield way back in January 2010.

Prediction: 2-0

Manchester City v Aston Villa

Manchester City continue their fight to clinch a fourth league title in the past six seasons. If they don’t hang on, they could go without a trophy for the first time under Pep Guardiola in a single season. Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias are out.

Aston Villa are safe, and fought Liverpool hard before falling to a 2-1 home defeat. Kortney Hause is still out with abdominal injury, while Ezri Konsa and Leon Bailey are doubtful with knee and ankle injuries.

Former Liverpool star Steven Gerrard has a golden opportunity to take something at the Etihad, but the West Midlands outfit are winless in their last eight meetings overall. Their last road victory over City was in the League Cup in September 2012.

Prediction: 2-1

Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur

Norwich were the first side to be officially relegated, after their 2-0 away loss to Aston Villa was coupled by Burnley’s 2-1 win at Watford at the end of April. Forward Teemu Pukki will be a bright spot for the injury-ravaged Canaries. Christoph Zimmermann, Andrew Omobamidele, Ozan Kabak, Kenny McLean, Adam Idah and Josh Sargent are out. Billy Gilmour and Mathias Normann are doubts with ankle injuries.

Spurs firmly hold that fourth spot in their hands, after the 3-0 North London derby win over Arsenal. Matt Doherty, Sergio Reguilon, Japhet Tanganga, Cristian Romero and Oliver Skipp are out for Antonio Conte’s team.

Defeat is very unlikely, but Spurs must avoid that to confirm Champions League football next term. The Whites have won 11 of 19 overall battles in this fixture.

Prediction: 1-3

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Published May 20, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated May 20, 2022 at 7:52 am)

Taking it to the wire

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