EPL survival battle goes down to the wire

Dean Smith was very upbeat and claimed that Leicester will go out with ‘all guns blazing’.

In Summary

•Only one of these clubs— Leicester, Leeds, or Everton will survive so I have visited each club this week to find out their master plans for staying in the Premier League next season.

Leicester have to win at home against West Ham and hopes that Everton drop points against Bournemouth.


Leicester City players during a past match
Leicester City players during a past match

The title race has been decided and the top four confirmed. This weekend, the focus turns on the three clubs fighting to stay in the top flight.

Only one of these clubs— Leicester, Leeds, or Everton will survive so I have visited each club this week to find out their master plans for staying in the Premier League next season.

Dean Smith was very upbeat and claimed that Leicester will go out with ‘all guns blazing’. Leicester have to win at home against West Ham and hopes that Everton drop points against Bournemouth.

“I always said it may come down to goal difference. Let’s hope it does as that will mean they haven’t won their game and if they draw that’s not enough for them.”

Smith left James Maddison and Harvey Barnes out of the game against Newcastle so he could concentrate on defence. They earned a point but this weekend Smith intends to put all his big guns into attacking West Ham and they have home advantage.

Everton need to win if Leicester also win or they will be overtaken. At the moment, Everton, who have been in the top flight since 1954, have a two-point advantage but Leicester have a better goal difference. Hamstring injuries have been Sean Dyche’s worry this week but both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Nathan Patterson should be available. The two missed training on Monday and Tuesday and spent time in the medical room being worked on physically by club specialists.

Dyche said his main headache is the defence, where Seamus Coleman is out for the season and Vitali Mykolenko has missed the last two games. Influential Ben Godfrey has been out for the past month. Dwight McNiel has now moved to left-back and center-half Michael Keane played both in the back line and in an attack against the Wolves. Dyche told us, “It’s about mentality and commitment now.”

*The Toffees extended Abdoulaye Doucoure’s contract by a further year on Wednesday.

It is looking very gloomy for Leeds. They need to win and both Everton and Leicester to lose if they are to stay up. Fireman Sam Allardyce has found only four games to turn around a losing streak too much of a challenge and he says he should have been hired three months ago.

At home against Tottenham on Sunday, Allardyce hopes to put out a full-strength squad with Ings leading the attack but Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo are fighting to be fit. Luke Ayling has been given the job of shackling Harry Kane. Allardyce admitted, “The challenge is to try to beat Tottenham and deliver a performance,"

"We'll give ourselves a chance if we win and then see what happens. Our only hope is to win that game.”

If he pulls off a survival on Sunday,  it will be truly remarkable.

Liverpool's plan to beef up for next season 

Liverpool's Roberto Firminho during a past match
Liverpool's Roberto Firminho during a past match
Image: FILE

As Liverpool waved to the home crowd at the end of a largely disappointing season by their high standards, several players were saying goodbye to the Kop for the final time.

Roberto Firmino and James Milner have been called upon throughout Jurgen Klopp’s career more than any other players and this season have largely come off the bench.

Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain have also confirmed they are leaving. With a Champions League spot now out of reach Klopp will strengthen his squad to tackle the Europa League next season and to battle Pep Guardiola’s supremacy.

Thiago Alcantara, Fabio Carvalho, Joel Matip, Nat Phillips, and Caoimhin Kelleher have also been linked with leaving the club.

Anfield Road is being redeveloped and I can reveal that a pre-season home friendly is not likely to be arranged. The club are also asking for time to complete their stadium rebuild and have put in a request to the FA that their first game is away from home.

I have learned that the club are looking to sign possibly three midfielders for the new season and Klopp has hinted that a new defending back could also be brought in.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is continuing his transition from full back to midfielder which opens up a space at the back. One certainty we do know is that Jude Bellingham will not be coming to Anfield after Liverpool pulled out of the race to sign him.

Liverpool owners FSG could agree for Klopp to bring in Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister but this would cost them around £120million.

 Guardiola the master tactician 

Julian Alvarez scored a single goal in a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at the weekend but in reality the gap in quality was much wider.

Pep Guardiola is very aware he has a vital Champions League final and FA Cup final coming up but such is the strength of his bench he was able to field a team with nine changes.

Pep Guardiola gestures during a past match
Pep Guardiola gestures during a past match
Image: /BBC

Before the match, Pep gave his players his usual motivating dressing room speech and every player held onto to every word. When a genius speaks even the most talented listen.

Chelsea have spent £585 in two transfer windows but were a goal down after 12 minutes.

Elite clubs have money but how they spend it proves who are the winners and Pep Guardiola’s team ran Chelsea ragged as they did Real Madrid in the Champions League.

In a much-practiced training move, Kalvin Phillips intercepted a pass from Wesley Fofana and stroked the ball to homegrown talent Cole Palmer.

The 21-year-old pushed the ball forward five times with his left foot and angled the ball to Julian Alvarez and the Argentinian steered the ball with his right foot across Thiago Silva and put it beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga into the net. Classic Guardiola.

City players are all disciples of Pep the Master and their strength on the bench showed how City have performed all season.

This team of mainly substitute players put on a show which few clubs could compete with.

was Grealish’s understudy and Alvarez took up Haaland’s striker position. Many thought the sale of Gabriel Jesus was a mistake but once again Pep got it right.

Next season’s line-up now depends on whether Gundogan or Bernardo Silva leaves but Pep only needs to concern himself with possibly bringing in a new fullback.

Kyle Walker was made captain in the match and he displayed the elite form which has been dramatically improved under Guardiola’s coaching.

One fan celebrating at the end of the match ran around the pitch with a T-shirt that said: “mind-blowing, one touch, fast flowing…it’s PEP-si”.

The fans love him and rightly so with the constant stream of victories he has brought them.

Replacing some of the older guards, City’s new youngsters Phil Foden, Rico Lewis, and Cole Palmer will be the core of the team in seasons to come.

Guardiola has improved both Grealish and John Stones to a level that dazzles opponents. Against Chelsea,  a three-player movement between Foden, Lewis and Palmer hugely impressed on the left-hand side of the field.

Chelsea were made to look as though they were sinking in the mud and couldn’t move. Chelsea coach Frank Lampard made changes and Conor Gallagher hit a post but there was no denying that City were vastly superior and they are already odds-on favourite to win the title again next season for a record four years in a row. 

Neymar  to join Casimero? 

Brazil star forward Neymar
Brazil star forward Neymar

In a sensational piece of news coming out of Old Trafford this week, Casmiro is apparently trying to persuade Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar to join him for next season in Manchester.

The two are friends and play for Brazil and although Neymar is contracted to PSG until 2027,  the club will not stand in his way if he wants to leave.

Kylian Mbappe is very much the focal point for PSG now and everything revolves around him. There is definitely a battle of the egos. With United needing only one point to qualify for Champions League football next season,  it is bound to influence the Brazilian.

United would prefer a loan deal but PSG want to recoup some of the £ 178 million they paid to bring Neymar from Spain. I have researched some fan reaction and it is not positive at all with many fearing Neymar would unsettle the dressing room in much the same way Cristiano Ronaldo did before being sacked.  

Update on De Gea 

Manchester United coach Erik Ten Hag has insisted he wants to keep David De Gea between the posts at Old Trafford despite the Spaniard’s wages being dropped from £375k a week to £200k but let’s face it, that is still £ 10 million a year! So far the two sides have not reached an agreement despite De Gea’s contract expiring next month.

In order to try and convince him to sign a new deal the club is willing to offer a testimonial season which could earn a few more millions without costing them on a weekly basis.

Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea
Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea

Inside news from Chelsea and Pochettino 

 Following behind doors close talks with Chelsea owner Todd Boehly, soon-to-be-appointed Mauricio Pochettino will start immediate planning once he gets behind his desk at the Cobham training ground. As I write this column Mauricio is flying into the UK to attend to the final details of a three-year contract.

New Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino
New Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino
Image: FILE

Chelsea need to sell players before June 30th and he will hold talks with several of them before they head off for their summer holidays after the final game of the season against Newcastle on Sunday.

Pre-season training starts in the first week of July and Frank Lampard is making himself available to advise the new coach.

Mauricio’s first priority is to try and keep Mason Mount who he considers a centerpiece of his plans for the future.

Mount’s contract is due for renewal but there has been no progress in talks with Boehly.

The 24-year-old wants his pay increased alongside senior members of the squad and he knows that Liverpool are watching the situation and will meet his demands. N’Golo Kante is another who is stalling on a new contract.

Due to leave in order to bring in fresh talent are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Zyech, Edouard Mendy, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Younger players possibly being released include the highly talented midfielder Faustino Anjorin who has been on loan at Huddersfield this season.

Inter Milan’s Champions League final will delay Romelu Lukaku’s talk with Pochettino but I know he is highly rated by the Argentine.

His first training session will see the players divided into groups of three and he has an exhausting fitness planned to get them into strong physical shape for the August kick-off.

The former Tottenham manager likes to keep a collection of lemons in his office because he believes they absorb negative energy.

Chelsea certainly need to lose a lot of their negative energy so let’s hope the lemon trick works.

*Congratulations to Manchester City and Pep Guardiola

on winning the Premier League title for the sixth time in seven years.

Now for the treble…