London (AFP) – Manchester City looked every inch champions elect as the leaders moved within touching distance of the title.
Tottenham delivered a hammer blow to Chelsea’s top four hopes and ended their Stamford Bridge curse in the process.
Here are five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:
City set for ultimate title party
Manchester City’s march to the Premier League title is set to reach an epic conclusion when bitter rivals Manchester United visit Eastlands on Saturday. City’s imperious 3-1 win at Everton means Pep Guardiola’s side will be crowned champions with a victory in the Manchester derby. Who better for City to start their title party against than United, who are a distant second as they lag 16 points behind the runaway leaders. United manager Jose Mourinho has never been fond of City boss Guardiola, but even he admits “there is a club which is making it practically impossible to follow”. On the evidence of City’s swaggering show at Everton, there is every chance Mourinho will be looking for somewhere to hide as Guardiola and company celebrate on Saturday.
Spurs make a statement
Tottenham ended a 28-year wait to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league and in doing so all but ended their London rivals hopes of Champions League football next season. Mauricio Pochettino may still not have won a trophy as Spurs boss, but he progress made under the Argentine is undeniable as Tottenham have established themselves as regulars in Europe’s premier club competition. Even more impressively, Spurs did most of the damage without Harry Kane, who made his return from injury as a second-half substitute. Without their talisman, Dele Alli stepped forward to quieten criticism of a sub-standard season by his standards by doubling his tally for 2018 with two goals in four minutes just after the hour mark to seal a 3-1 win.
Little case for Liverpool defence
Liverpool were able to lean on Mohamed Salah once more to grind out a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday to remain well on course for a top-four finish. However, there were more warning signs than sources of hope for Jurgen Klopp ahead of facing the might of Manchester City twice in the space of six days for a place in the Champions League semi-finals. Just as against Manchester United three weeks ago, young right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was exposed against the pace and power of Wilfried Zaha. Centre-back pairing Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk — the world’s most expensive defender — were also got napping when Christian Benteke passed up two huge chances to restore Palace’s lead in the second-half. Given similar service it is highly unlikely Liverpool will escape unscathed against the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane in midweek.
Smells like team-spirit at Arsenal
When Alexandre Lacazette was fouled to win a penalty in the final moments of Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Stoke, it seemed certain that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would take the spot-kick to complete his hat-trick. The Gabon striker’s late double had put Arsenal in control after they laboured to break down Stoke for long periods at the Emirates Stadium and his first treble in England seemed a fitting reward. But instead Aubameyang deferred to France forward Lacazette, who was returning from an injury lay-off that served as the latest blow in a difficult first season with Arsenal. Lacazette gratefully accepted the gift, slotting home the penalty to leave Gunners boss Arsene Wenger musing happily about the friendly gesture. “I know they have a good understanding. I like that because it makes the team stronger,” Wenger said.
Mourinho focused on self-defence
Jose Mourinho’s carrot and stick approach to his Manchester United players must be wearisome to them as it is certainly to the fans. He gave them unstinting praise for their first-half display but it appears he is more focused on staving off any questions over his job security. He spent most of the day defending his record — whether it was in the programme notes or in the post match press conference — showing his 12 minute rant last month about his tenure clearly is his theme of the moment. The 2-0 win over Swansea may have kept their noses in front in the race to be runners-up to City but should the latter seal the title in the Manchester derby, expect Mourinho to ramp up the self justification.