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Premier League preview: Eight talking points ahead of the weekend’s action

For the final time this season we’re on hand to preview the weekend’s Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.

Stage set for Gerrard to help old side

Steven Gerrard infamously failed to win the Premier League at Liverpool, the league title the one glaring omission from his medal collection during an illustrious career at Anfield.

Gerrard endured some near misses, most notably the 2013/14 campaign where that unfortunate slip from the midfielder handed the title initiative back to Manchester City.

This weekend provides the former Reds captain with a chance to help his old side’s pursuit of the Premier League, as Aston Villa travel to Manchester City looking to ruin the league leader’s parade.

A result for Villa at the Etihad will crown Liverpool champions should the latter win against Wolves and the presence of Gerrard in the visiting dugout no doubt adds to the narrative of the final day drama.

City will start as huge favourites and have won 14/18 home games so far this season, though the final day fixtures have thrown up a scriptwriter’s dream.

Salah looks to keep ahead of Son in race for Golden Boot

On a final day with much left unsettled, the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot will be an event to keep a close eye on.

Mohamed Salah raced into a lead in his pursuit of a third career accolade, but the Egypt international has slowed in recent weeks – scoring just twice in his last eight games – to allow Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min to close the gap.

The latter has 10 goals in his last nine games for Spurs and travels to face already relegated Norwich on the final day, perhaps the ideal fixture for the Champions League chasing North Londoners and their leading scorer.

Just one goal separates the forwards heading into the final day, in what promises to be a shootout to finish as the league’s leading scorer.

Survival scrap to go down to the wire

Everton’s thrilling comeback win over Crystal Palace sealed Premier League survival on Thursday, leaving the survival scrap down to two teams on the final day.

Either Burnley or Leeds will join Watford and Norwich in the Championship next season, with the two teams level on points heading into the final fixtures of the campaign.

Leeds must better Burnley’s result to survive and travel to face an in-form Brentford at the Brentford Community Stadium. There remains some needle between the sides following their promotion rivalry from 2019/20 and the Bees head into the clash in fine form, ranking third in the Premier League’s form table across the last six games.

Burnley also face a team in strong form as Newcastle arrive at Turf Moor, but know that a win on home soil will guarantee their Premier League status with the Clarets boasting a far superior goal difference to their relegation rivals.

Conte closing in on Champions League

Antonio Conte’s turnaround of Tottenham is almost complete, with the North Londoners one win away from securing a top four finish and Champions League qualification.

Conte arrived with Spurs in ninth, having lost five of their opening 10 games during the short reign of Nuno Espirito Santo.

Spurs struggled for consistency during the early part of Conte’s reign, but have found form at a crucial time and have taken 26 points from their last 12 games, with only Liverpool (32) and Manchester City (27) having managed more.

The Italian has brought the best from summer signing Cristian Romero, whilst winter window additions Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur have added quality in key areas.

A win at Norwich on the final day will seal Champions League football for Spurs and it is then when we will see whether the ownership can match their manager’s ambition.

Ten Hag to attend as sorry season concludes for Manchester United

There will be a keen spectator as Manchester United’s season reaches its conclusion at Crystal Palace this weekend, with Erik ten Hag set to be in the stands before officially starting his job as manager the next day.

The Dutchman is keen to give himself as much time as possible to rebuild during the summer, with mass changes expected at Old Trafford in personnel.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly are understood to have already been given permission to find other clubs, whilst a whole host of out-of-contract players means it will be major squad surgery for the incoming boss.

A refresh is required after the club’s worst-ever Premier League campaign, one which has included a lowest-ever points total and record 56 goals conceded.

The 4-0 loss at Brighton last time out was further evidence of the scale of the task awaiting Ten Hag, who will hope his new side can secure a positive result at Palace and secure Europa League qualification.

West Ham – who travel to face Brighton – will be hoping to capitalise on any slips.

Brazil’s best go head-to-head for the Golden Glove

Alisson and Ederson contest for the role as Brazil’s number one goalkeeper and the Liverpool and Manchester City shot-stoppers will embark on another personal duel this weekend.

The race for the Premier League’s Golden Glove is level heading into the final fixtures, with each of the duo on 20 clean sheets.

The last three Golden Glove awards have been shared between the South American stars, whilst Ederson is seeking to win a third consecutive accolade in 2021/22.

Should he keep another shut-out and beat Alisson to the award, he will become the first goalkeeper since ex-City stopper Joe Hart to win the accolade in three successive seasons.

Eriksen’s goodbye to Brentford?

Thomas Frank spoke on his optimism that Christian Eriksen would sign a new deal at Brentford, with the midfielder’s six-month deal set to expire this summer.

Eriksen has been a revelation since returning to football, following his collapse while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020 last summer.

He has been the catalyst behind Brentford’s impressive end-of-season form, but spoke last week of his desire to play Champions League football once again.

Frank spoke on his future at his pre-match press conference and suggested there would be a ‘statue’ of Eriksen built at Brentford should he turn down other offers and remain with the club.

“I know I am optimistic but I also picked up the phone and said, ‘Hey, do you want to come to Brentford?'” Frank said.

“No one thought about that six months ago. I would love to say 100 per cent, but I am convinced there is a good chance he can wear the Brentford shirt.

“Either he signs with us and everyone is going to be happy and the fans will build a statue of him outside the stadium in two or three years’ time, or he goes to a bigger level and fans will applaud him and we will all say, ‘Thank you for this time, go forward’.

“He helped the team, he gave something to the fans they had never seen before at this level. We helped him back to his football life again.”

Change needed at Chelsea to close the gap

Chelsea’s season has been one of disappointment after pre-season talk of a potential title challenge, with the West Londoners inconsistency having left the European champions trailing behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

Defeats to Liverpool in both domestic cup finals also represented setbacks for Thomas Tuchel, whose side will undergo changes this summer with defensive duo Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger among those set to depart.

A refresh is needed while loanees Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja and Levi Colwill should be given a chance to prove themselves as pre-season rolls around.

Romelu Lukaku has also struggled to prove a fit for Tuchel’s team this season, but showed encouraging signs in the recent draw with Wolves. He will hope to use the final day showdown with relegated Watford as a chance to build ahead of next season.

The current takeover situation at Stamford Bridge has impacted plans for the 2022/23 campaign and Tuchel will be hoping for a swift resolution. Without it, the Blues could find themselves falling further behind the top two.

Read – Appreciating the four back-to-back winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award

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