Eight talking points ahead of the final Premier League weekend

For the final time this season, we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.

Wolves can not afford to lose Lopetegui

Julen Lopetegui has done a fine job in securing Premier League safety at Wolves, having inherited a team bottom of the table before leading the club away from danger.

The optimism of Lopetegui’s early reign has turned to concern however, with uncertainty surrounding the Spaniard’s future. The 56-year-old wants assurances over Wolves’ ability to operate in the transfer market, but the club must make profit this summer to comply with Financial Fair Play rules.

“Now is the moment to talk, now is the moment to discuss, now is the moment to take a decision, not after one or two months – it is now,” Lopetegui said on talks with the club’s board.

“It’s about not how much, but about what players we are going to have.

“I am not asking for incredible signings from Real Madrid or Barcelona. I am thinking of signing good players, young players, maybe Championship players, I don’t know. This is the more important thing, the names of the players.”

Ruben Neves is expected to leave and the midfielder’s departure would bring in a significant fee, while Matheus Nunes is admired by Liverpool. Replacing that duo, however, would not be easy. Having convinced long-term target Lopetegui to take over at Molineux, the club’s board will not want to lose him so soon.

Watkins can bounce back from England exclusion

Ollie Watkins was a notable omission when this week’s England squad was announced, with the Aston Villa forward not included despite scoring 11 league goals since the turn of the year.

Watkins’ form has slowed in recent weeks and he has gone six games without a goal after missing a penalty at Liverpool last weekend, but the forward has the perfect chance to bounce back from his England disappointment this week.

Aston Villa can confirm their place in Europe next season with a win against Brighton, who are safe above them in sixth and will arrive in the Midlands with little to play for. Villa have won their last six on home soil and have conceded just one goal during that run, an impressive period of form that has placed their European hopes in their own hands.

Watkins will be key to their chances with his selfless endeavour leading the line. The battle between the 27-year-old and a Brighton defence expected to be without Lewis Dunk could be decisive.

Where does Lampard go from here?

Chelsea’s calamitous season will reach its conclusion this weekend, when a Newcastle side who have powered past the big-spending Blues to secure Champions League football arrive at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea fans will be glad to see the back of this season, one which has seen the west Londoners have four different head coaches and finish in the Premier League’s bottom half for the first time since 1995/96.

Chelsea will no doubt bounce back and have enough talent and resources to make this season an anomaly, but what about the man currently in charge? Frank Lampard jumped at the chance to return to the club on an interim basis, but has failed to make any form of impact at Stamford Bridge.

In a bid to save the sinking ship he holds so dearly, has Lampard irreparably damaged a reputation already dented following a difficult spell at Everton?

The 44-year-old no doubt has grand ambitions in management, but it’s difficult to see a top-level opportunity arriving any time soon. A remarkable rebuild is required for Lampard, whose coaching career has not turned out as expected so far.

Everton hope history can repeat itself with last-day escape

Everton might not have been relegated from the top flight since 1951, but this weekend’s survival fight is not the Toffees’ first experience of the last-chance saloon.

Everton’s famous great escapes in 1994 and 1998 are the stuff of legend, when the club overcame the odds to climb out of trouble on dramatic final days. The task this time around is simpler, with the fate of Sean Dyche’s side very much in their own hands.

Beat Bournemouth this weekend and Everton’s long unbroken record of top-tier football will continue. On paper, Everton appear to have a favourable fixture against a Cherries team safe from the drop, but there are issues for Dyche.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s latest injury is a devastating blow to their survival hopes, while Everton must also overcome a poor recent record against Bournemouth. Everton have lost their last four meetings with the Cherries – including two already this season – and have won just one of the last seven encounters.

Foxes must be brave to have chance of survival

Leicester need Everton to drop points to have any chance of avoiding relegation, with a battling goalless draw at Newcastle in midweek leaving their fate out of their own control.

Dean Smith opted for security at St James’ Park, implementing a five-man backline and leaving both Harvey Barnes and James Maddison on the bench. The result was a first clean sheet since November, but Leicester offered little to no threat and did not manage a shot on goal until the final seconds.

Leicester must beat West Ham this weekend to have any chance of survival and Smith must be bold in his selection at the King Power Stadium. Maddison and Barnes have 22 league goals between them this season, just two less than the rest of the current squad have managed combined.

The Foxes have won just one of their last 15 games and are on the brink of an ignominious relegation, just seven seasons after being crowned Premier League champions. Smith must gamble and go with his leading attacking talent, against a West Ham side whose upcoming European final might serve as a distraction.

Expect the unexpected at Elland Road

Two of the Premier League’s most unpredictable teams meet on the final weekend, as Leeds host Tottenham in the only fixture in which both teams have something at stake.

Leeds must win to have any chance of survival, but require results to go their way at Everton and Leicester to escape the drop into the Championship. Meanwhile, Spurs must better Aston Villa’s result to climb above Unai Emery’s side and into Europe.

Both teams have struggled defensively this season and the shared need to win could lead to an enthralling encounter. The first meeting in November was a classic as Spurs won 4-3 in north London, with Rodrigo Bentancur’s late double sealing success for the home side.

There is a chance this could be Harry Kane’s final game for Tottenham, as speculation continues to surround a summer exit for the England captain.

He needs two goals to reach 30 in the Premier League for the second time in his career and only Alan Shearer has ever scored 30+ goals in multiple Premier League seasons. Kane has scored more goals on the final day of the season (9) than any other player in the division’s history.

Transfer window crucial for Ten Hag’s improving team

Erik ten Hag called Champions League qualification an ‘important step’ for Manchester United, after a top four finish was secured with a game to spare.

It continues an encouraging first season for the Dutchman, who ended the club’s six-year wait for silverware with League Cup success and has the chance to add the FA Cup when the Red Devils meet Manchester City in the final on June 3.

Attentions will soon turn to the summer transfer window, one which will be crucial to the club’s hopes of challenging next season. Manchester United invested a club-record £217.3m last summer and several of Ten Hag’s additions have been a success, with Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Casermiro all crucial to their campaign, while Antony will be expected to improve after a season of adaptation to the Premier League.

Further additions are required in key areas, not least the signing of a centre-forward. United have been reliant on Marcus Rashford for goals and the underwhelming performances of Anthony Martial and Wout Weghorst have heightened the need for a recognised number nine.

Harry Kane continues to be linked and is the calibre of signing that could transform this team into a real force.

Lavia’s chance to impress against summer suitors

Liverpool have been linked with a whole host of midfielders as the transfer window approaches, as Jurgen Klopp looks to rebuild a midfield that has struggled this season and will be depleted when James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain depart this summer.

The Reds end their season at Southampton this weekend and will come face-to-face with a rumoured transfer target. Liverpool are understood to be among the clubs monitoring Romeo Lavia, who is expected to receive significant interest from top-flight clubs this summer.

The 19-year-old has impressed despite a season of struggle at Southampton and made his debut for Belgium in March. Signed from Manchester City amid the promise of first-team football last summer, Lavia has starred on the south coast and offers a tenacious, press-resistant presence in midfield.

No other teenager in the division has made more than 50 tackles, while his average of 7.8 ball recoveries per game places Lavia among the top 15 ball-winners in the Premier League this season. Exciting, elegant and with room to grow, Liverpool will want to take a close look at Lavia when the teams meet at St Mary’s this weekend.

Read – The weirdest and funniest moments from the 2022/23 season

Read Also – Picking our 22/23 Premier League Team of the Season

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