An extra long sunny weekend was made all the better by a bumper package of Premier League football this Easter.
As we hurtle towards the finish line this season each game at the top and bottom gets ever more critical for all those involved. With the stress and strain beginning to take hold, here is a look at five things we learned from the best of the action.
Manchester City take stride towards the title with huge win
After the shock and emotional torment of their away goals defeat to Spurs in the Champions League, Man City were faced with the same opponents this weekend as they looked to move on from their European anguish. With the league title still firmly within their own hands, this game was huge and represented one of the last remaining hurdles for them to get over in their defence of their top-flight crown.
An early header from Phil Foden was ultimately enough to give City an enormous victory and morale booster going into their final run of games. Spurs kept themselves in the contest though and made things difficult for their hosts in a scorching Saturday lunchtime clash.
You could almost feel the tension in the stadium throughout the 90 minutes as City survived a couple of big chances for their opponents in the first half. They hung on though and this result means they are now just four wins away from their prize in what has been a relentless title race.
Liverpool pass strenuous Cardiff test as they compete on two very big fronts
Some pundits had this one down as a dead cert for Liverpool as they arrived in South Wales to face Neil Warnock’s relegation battlers. The late Sunday game was anything but a formality for The Reds though, as they locked horns with a prickly and combative Cardiff side, determined to upset their title bid. A dry pitch and a blue wall of organised defenders scuppered Liverpool’s creativity, despite their control over proceedings.
Patience and composure was required from Jurgen Klopp’s side in the second half and they were duly rewarded for their approach by big goals from Gini Wijnaldum and a James Milner penalty. In truth, the score-line could have been even more emphatic had Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah converted their chances, but this match was all about the three points for Liverpool.
Unlike their title rivals, they have a huge Champions League clash on the horizon and will have to continue fighting across two fronts for the at least the next couple of weeks. Consequently, we may yet see more gritty performances like this one as fatigue becomes a real factor for The Reds in the run-in.
United and Solskjaer left with big questions to answer after Everton mauling
After their defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League, Manchester United’s remaining task is to reclaim their status in the top four this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been travelling to Merseyside on Sunday, with the hope that his side can put their recent stuttering form behind them and end the campaign with real conviction. A few minutes into his side’s clash with Everton at Goodison Park, these hopes would have been left in tatters.
A startling 4-0 defeat to Marco Silva’s side has left many a United fan and pundit in despair and asking some real questions of this current Red Devils outfit. A lack of intensity, pressing or desire to get back and face up to an aggressive home team is arguably more concerning for Solskjaer, than his leaky and unconvincing defence.
Taking nothing away from Everton, who have really hit some form of late, they were superb and could have comfortably added to the scoreline on Sunday. This was a sobering result for all involved at United and leaves absolutely no illusions about the scale of the works now required at Old Trafford this summer and beyond.
Arsenal blow big chance to stake a top four claim
The race for the top four took yet another big twist as Arsenal succumbed to a shock 2-3 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday. A confident Palace sprung an efficient counter-attacking trap at The Emirates, spearheaded, of course, by Wilf Zaha, as Arsenal’s shaky rearguard crumbled when called upon.
Despite enjoying a whopping 73% of the ball, the Gunners were still able to concede a staggering 16 chances to their visitors as sloppy defending cost them dearly. This is a defeat which could well have a massive bearing on whether or not Emery can engineer a top-four finish. With just one home game remaining this season, it looks as though Arsenal have just blown their big chance.
Brighton claw a point back after hideous run of form
After just two league victories in 2019, Brighton have been well and truly sucked into the relegation scrap. Their midweek loss to Cardiff was a real blow and handed their rivals a massive chance of survival at their expense. Chris Hughton’s men desperately need points on the board from anywhere they can get them, so the former Newcastle boss would have been relieved to have come away from Wolverhampton with a big point in the bag.
The Seagulls survived a bombardment on their goal and had it not been for some ropey finishing by their hosts they would have lost this game by a significant margin. Houghton will be delighted that they somehow hung on in there for a draw, which could do well to heal the wounds of their recent home defeats and ease the pressure on them ever so slightly.