In the penultimate weekend of the 2015-2016 Premier League season, first-time champions Leicester City lifted the trophy in front of their home fans in what was a beautiful moment for all fans of the sport. As the season winds down and teams have only one or two games left, the scrap for safety becomes the biggest focus. This year’s relegation battle includes Norwich City, Newcastle, and Sunderland, with Aston Villa confirming their drop to the Football League Championship a few weeks earlier after a dismal season which saw them end the year with their third different head coach this season.
When the Foxes clinched their first title after Tottenham failed to hold their 2-0 lead over a motivated Chelsea on May 2, no one was quite able to fathom what they had just done. With 5000-1 odds to be champions at the start of the season, Leicester clinched Premier League glory with two games left to play, which is impressive considering the 1980 USA Olympics ice hockey team, which pulled off the “Miracle on Ice,” were given 1000-1 odds to win the gold medal.
During the primetime game on Saturday, Leicester took on Everton, thumping them 3-1 with two goals from Jamie Vardy, his first game back since his suspension against Swansea, and another from Andy King, a player who has been with Leicester since their time in the third tier of English football.
Other games with major implications took place earlier in the day as Norwich hosted Manchester United, Newcastle took on Aston Villa at Villa Park, and Sunderland faced Chelsea at the Stadium of Light. In the first game of the day, Norwich saw their hope for safety nearly flicker out as they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Champions League hopefuls Manchester United.
The next action came after that game as Newcastle travelled to Villa Park, hoping to put a larger gap between Aston Villa and the relegation zone. This should have been an easy three points for the visitors as Villa had nothing to play for, having already been relegated, but as Newcastle has shown all season, their wage bill doesn’t represent their quality as a team. They came away with a 0-0 draw, giving them one extra point, but it felt like they lost two points as it was a disappointing score line.
While that game was going on, Sunderland were looking to make progress of their own in their fight against relegation. Their opponents, Chelsea, posed a tough challenge to overcome, and going into the break Chelsea were up 2-1 thanks to goals from Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic. Sunderland’s only goal came thanks to a Wahbi Khazri wonder goal.
Sunderland, not unfamiliar with the fight for safety, came out in the second half looking for an equalizer and in the 67th minute they found one through Fabio Borini, but they weren’t finished there. Just three minutes later, the Black Cats savior, Jermain Defoe, fired a shot past Courtois, sending the home fans into ecstasy and giving Sunderland a 3-2 victory. The victory was a vital three points for Sunderland, putting them just out of the relegation spots in 17th place, with two games left to play and a game in hand on 18th place Newcastle.
Sunday saw the fight for Champions League football heat up as Arsenal visited the Etihad to take on Manchester City. Arsenal started the day in third place, with Man City just behind them in fourth, the last Champions league spot. Manuel Pellegrini’s last home game in charge of City before Pep Guardiola comes in this summer got off to a good start as the speedy Argentine, Sergio Aguero, put City ahead 1-0 after just eight minutes.
It was a short lived lead, however, as just two minutes later, Olivier Giroud scored his first goal in 15 games. The game stayed level until the 51st minute when City’s player of the season, Kevin De Bruyne, put them back on top.
However, City were unable to hold the lead as Alexis Sanchez levelled for Arsenal in the 68th minute. The game ended with the same score line 2-2, seeing City lose control of their Champions League push. United must drop points in one of their last two games if City hope to be playing in Europe’s top competition next season.
Tottenham, coming off two draws that saw their title fight fail in the previous two weeks, took on Southampton May 8. In what has become sort of a theme over the past years, Tottenham lost the game 2-1, having just taken 2 out 9 possible points in their last three games. That’s so Spursy, you must be thinking, and by golly you’re right.
Liverpool also played Watford, picking up an easy 2-0 win with goals from Joe Allen and Roberto Firmino. Liverpool will be looking to make their way into the Champions League through the Europa League final, which could see only the top three finishers in the Premier League gain qualification into the Champions League next year. The final weekend is sure to be exciting as both the relegation and Champions League battles intensify.