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Football Fiesta

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

With the 2019/20 football season finally drawing to a close in the coming weeks, we can expect more fireworks from the handful of matches still remaining.

The Premier League season concluded this past Sunday and it was all to play for towards both ends of the table. Coming into the final round of games Aston Villa were outside of the relegation zone for the first time since mid-February. At kick-off on Sunday afternoon Villa & Watford both sat on 34 points, The Villains safe by virtue of +1 goal difference. Both teams were on the road for their final games with Villa at West Ham; Watford against Arsenal at the Emirates.

Bournemouth needed for both Villa and Watford to take losses in order for them to have any chance at survival. Nothing short of a win would do for Eddie Howe & Bournemouth in their fight to avoid the drop, as they faced a trip to Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton.

The Cherries got off to a positive start and were 2-1 up at halftime, goals coming from King & Solanke; Stanislas added a third before fulltime, putting Bournemouth on 34 points and giving Ancelotti his first home defeat of the season.

Everton veteran Leighton Baines hung up his boots after 13 seasons at Goodison Park. Baines amassed 420 appearances for the Toffees and also earned 30 caps for England during his time at the club.

Watford found themselves 0-3 down to Arsenal before Deeney pulled one back shortly before HT, scoring a trademark thumping penalty. In the second 45’ Gunners old boy Danny Welbeck bagged Watford’s second goal.

Arsenal held on for the win, confirming relegation for the Hornets after five straight seasons in the top flight. Arsenal finished the season in 8th position, a record-low in 25 years.

Mikel Arteta’s men rely on winning the FA Cup final against Chelsea if they have any hope of European football next season.

West Ham and Aston Villa were locked in a stalemate until the 84th minute when skipper Jack Grealish’s sweet left-footed strike put Villa ahead and safe from relegation. Roughly 90 seconds later the ball was in Villa’s net from a deflected Yarmolenko shot, 1-1.

Villa players spent the last minutes shielding the ball by the corner flag and the result was enough to guarantee Premier League football at Villa Park for the 2020/21 season, sending Bournemouth down to the Championship. Scenes of jubilation in the away dressing room at London Stadium.

Towards the top end of the table, there were huge ramifications in the race for European football leading up to Sunday. Manchester United and Chelsea (both 63 points) were in position to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League. Chelsea hosted Wolves. Mason Mount’s curling freekick and smart footwork from Olivier Giroud put the Blues two goals up at the half interval. Wolves only managed one shot on goal all match. Final score, 2-0, giving Lampard’s blue army Champions League football next season. Wolves can still qualify for the Champions League if they win this season’s Europa League.

Meanwhile Man Utd travelled to Leicester City. At the resumption of the league season in June, United trailed the Foxes by 14 points. On Sunday, Leicester were one point shy of the top 4. It was by no means a classic performance from either side. United were relatively static in the first half while Leicester’s slump in form paid dividends for the Reds.

Bruno Fernandes scored his sixth penalty in red and Jesse Lingard had an easy finish deep into stoppage time. United's 2-0 victory at the King Power secured their 3rd place finish and confirmed an 18-point turnaround on Brendan Rodgers's side. United together with Chelsea (and Liverpool & Man City) qualify for Europe’s elite club competition. Leicester finished 5th, earning Europa League qualification.

Jamie Vardy (33) becomes the oldest recipient of the PL Golden Boot, netting 23 times for the Foxes.

Champions Liverpool were away at Newcastle, who took the lead inside the opening 25 seconds of the game. A rotated Liverpool side fought back and Virgil van Dijk’s towering header put the teams level at the break.

Origi put Liverpool ahead shortly before the trio of Mané, Firmino, and Salah entered the fray for the Reds. Mané scored late on to seal a 3-1 victory, Liverpool finishing the season on a massive 99 points – the second highest tally in Premier League history.

Newcastle finished the season in 13th place, on 44 PTS.

Man City hosted Norwich in what was David Silva’s Premier League swansong for the Citizens. VAR disallowed an early Norwich goal shortly before City took the lead through Gabriel Jesus.

Playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is a strong candidate to take over captaincy from the departing Silva, and doubled City’s lead just before halftime. Pep Guardiola rang changes for the second half and his men continued to rake in the goals, Sterling and Mahrez both netting before De Bruyne grabbed his second of the game. FT 5-0.

Goalkeeper Ederson claimed the PL Golden Glove with his 16th clean sheet of the season.

Kevin de Bruyne claimed the Playmaker of the Season Award for his 33 goal contributions – including a record-equalling 20 assists.

David Silva leaves after an illustrious 10 years in Manchester, having played 433 times for the club. ‘El Mago’ had 199 goal contributions during his spell in which he notably lifted 4 Premier League and 2 FA Cup titles. Silva will be remembered at the Etihad for years to come and will undoubtedly go down in Man City folklore.

City finish runners-up in the league, 81 PTS.

Norwich finish rock bottom, 21 PTS.

Elsewhere, Crystal Palace and Tottenham drew 1-1 at Selhurst Park.

Spurs pipped Wolves to finish 6th by goal difference (both 59 PTS) and earn qualification for the Europa League with Leicester.

Palace finish in 14th position (43 PTS)

Other results:

Burnley 1-2 Brighton

Southampton 3-1 Sheffield United

Following the blockbuster of final-day games, Arsenal and Chelsea go to battle at Wembley in the FA Cup final on Saturday. Managers Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard will both be looking to win a trophy in their first season in the job. Arteta, who although has only been the main man at Arsenal for a mere half season, has benefited from the stewardship of fellow Spaniard Pep Guardiola’s managerial prowess, having worked under the Man City boss for the better part of three years.

13x winners Arsenal will fancy themselves, but by no means will the Blues be any easy doing for the Gunners. Arsenal rely on victory in their bid to compete in next season’s Europa League.

Should Chelsea lift their 9th FA Cup crown, that Europa qualification spot will fall unto Wolves – who finished 7th in the Premier League.

In the Championship playoffs for promotion, Scott Parker’s Fulham have a 2-goal buffer over Cardiff City heading into the reverse leg. In the other semi-final first leg, Swansea City edged Brentford 1-0 courtesy of an Andre Ayew goal. The playoff final takes place on Tuesday 4 August at Wembley.

In the Italian Serie A, European qualification for next season is already a closed case with the final round of matches this weekend. Juventus claimed their 9th successive Scudetto title while Inter Milan, Atalanta, and Lazio are separated by just a single point and will seemingly battle it out for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places.

Further down the log Roma, AC Milan, and Napoli look set to occupy the Europa League spots.

The first week of August sees Man United and Wolves having duties in the existing Europa League Round of 16, while Chelsea and Manchester City both have Champions League Round of 16 ties versus Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, respectively.

The quarterfinals for both competitions are scheduled for the following week, and the semis the week thereafter. The UCL final is due to take place on 23 August in Lisbon, Portugal and the UEL final in Cologne, Germany 48 hours prior.

The FA Community Shield is to be contested (between Premier League champions Liverpool and TBD winners of the FA Cup) on Saturday 29 August.

There is also a host of international football in the UEFA Nations League, including a mouth-watering clash between 2014 World Cup winners Germany and 2010 winners Spain on 3 September. Other games to look out for include Netherlands vs Poland (4 Sep), as well as Iceland vs England; Denmark vs Belgium; Portugal vs Croatia; and Sweden vs France (all 5 Sep).

The Premier League transfer window is open for 71 days, as from 27 July. Several big money deals have already been completed prior to the window opening. Leroy Sané has returned to the Bundesliga, moving from Man City to German Champions Bayern Munich. Meanwhile Chelsea have acquired the services of both Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, both of whom have gained huge plaudits for their performances especially in the UCL with former clubs RB Leipzig & Ajax, respectively.

Other eye-catching deals across Europe to have already been agreed on include Jude Bellingham (17) signing for Borussia Dortmund for a reported initial fee of £25 million, as well as the swap deal between Juventus and FC Barcelona – which sees Miralem Pjanić and Arthur Melo trading shirts.

The European transfer deadline is on 5 October. Free agents, however, can be registered outside of the allotted transfer window. There are some notable players across Europe who are unassigned as of the end of this season. These include, among several others, Edinson Cavani, David Silva, Thiago Silva, and Jan Vertonghen.

Premier League clubs will want to wrap up the majority of their summer transfer business before the start of the 2020/21 campaign, which kicks off on Saturday 12 September.

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