Rich Laverty takes a look at some of the weekend’s action across the country, which includes Chelsea’s defeat to Crystal Palace, Everton’s goalkeeping woes and why Sunderland’s defiance should be admired.
Chelsea’s aren’t infallible
When Chelsea went 1-0 up early doors against Crystal Palace on Saturday, it looked like another routine afternoon at the office for Antonio Conte.
But within five minutes they’d not just conceded one, but two, and it was a result that stuck for the rest of the afternoon. Now it should be said that it appeared to be just ‘one of those days’ rather than a genuinely bad performance, but it has just opened the door a little after Tottenham picked up three points at Burnley.
Conte’s men are still in control but with matches at Everton, Manchester United and West Brom to come, as well as Tottenham at home, Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad could be huge if they’re once again on the wrong end of the result.
Everton need a new man between the sticks
It was almost a little sad watching Joel Robles at Anfield on Saturday, one can only imagine how much stick he’ll take from his own fans for such a poor performance in the biggest of games for Everton.
Predominantly a backup for both David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois in Spain, Joel provided several good saves when Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup in 2013, earning himself a move to Everton when Roberto Martinez took the job.
But poor Joel seemed to forget what to do at Anfield, he didn’t dive (or even try) for any of Liverpool’s three goals and his lack of movement for the third of the afternoon was utterly bizarre. With Asmir Begovic continuing to warm the bench at Stamford Bridge, surely a move for the big Bosnian would make sense for all?
Mourinho now needs to throw all his (Easter) eggs in one big Europa League-shaped basket
For every positive Manchester United result this season, it appears to be followed up by a frustrating draw at home to a side outside the top seven. That pattern didn’t alter on Saturday when Mourinho’s men couldn’t breakdown Tony Pulis’ West Brom and it does now seem to be a step too far to think about the top four.
Chelsea are there, Tottenham are there and Manchester City and Liverpool look to be joining them. Anderlecht await United in the quarter-finals of the Europa League and it’s a more than winnable tie for a team who should have a slightly fresher Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba returning to the team soon.
With April so busy for the team and Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones now absentees for the month, it might be time to throw away the league and put everything into the Europa League. Not just is it a European trophy, it’s now United’s only path into next season’s Champions League.
Sunderland are done
I was never one of the Manchester United fans who disliked David Moyes, the man did his best in tough circumstances and part of me wanted to see him succeed at Sunderland. Of course, success is all relevant at a club like Sunderland but it does appear the season is going to end in relegation for poor Moyes.
However, I also admire Sunderland’s defiance in sticking with him. Even with the Championship beckoning it appears the club will keep Moyes and it may be a very shrewd move. All due respect but this relegation has been coming for a few years now and Moyes is an experienced manager more than capable of rebuilding the team at a lower level.
That way, Sunderland can soon come back to the Premier League – which they will – with a new look team and maybe some fresh hope after a poor few seasons in the top division.
Brighton & Newcastle are almost there
While Sunderland might be almost done for, their bitter rivals Newcastle look set to retake their spot. It was a dream for the Mackems last year when their neighbours were relegated instead of them, but it’s looking bittersweet as we come towards the end of another season.
It would also appear we’re set to welcome Brighton to the Premier League brigade. Last year’s play-off heartache hasn’t deterred them and wins for the top two, coupled with defeats for Huddersfield Town and Leeds United, has made it almost certain that the automatic promotion spots are done and dusted.
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