Back-to-back wins for Red Devils
Manchester United and Wolves both recorded comfortable 3-0 wins on Sunday afternoon to move to within three and five points respectively of Chelsea as the race to finish in the top four intensifies.
With the Blues beating Tottenham on Saturday the pressure was on United to follow up last week’s win over Frank Lampard’s men and they could ill-afford to slip up at home to relegation-threatened Watford.
But the three points were never really in any doubt from the moment January signing Bruno Fernandes converted a late first-half penalty. The Hornets had a goal correctly ruled out for handball by VAR before Anthony Martial‘s excellent goal stretched United’s lead, with 18-year-old striker Mason Greenwood completing the victory 15 minutes from time.
The win moves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men up to fifth in the table, three points behind Chelsea, and they can now be backed at [4.3] to record a Top 4 Finish.
Four teams within two points
Wolves‘ win over basement club Norwich was equally as convincing as United’s win and it means they remain firmly in the hunt to qualify for the Champions League.
Diogo Jota scored a brace for Nuno Santo’s men, his fourth and fifth goals in two games, while Raul Jimenez‘s 13th league goal of the season wrapped up the victory, moving Wolves back up to eighth in the table but just two points behind United in fifth.
Tottenham‘s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday and Sheffield United‘s 1-1 draw with Brighton means four teams are separated by just two points immediately behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Lampard’s men remain favourites at [1.63] to finish in the top four. Spurs can be backed at [6.2], ahead of Wolves at [9.0] and the Blades at [18.0].
Arsenal kept their faint hopes of a top four finish alive with an entertaining but nervy 3-2 win over Everton in Sunday afternoon’s late game – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with another two goals – and they can be backed at [19.0] in that particular market, though perhaps a more realistic target is a Top 6 Finish, for which the Gunners can be backed at [3.5].
More lost ground for struggling sides
It was a particularly bad weekend for the clubs at the wrong end of the table as in addition to Norwich and Watford’s defeats on Sunday, Aston Villa and Bournemouth also lost without scoring, while Brighton could manage just a draw.
Villa lost 2-0 at Southampton in a game that infuriated Dean Smith for his team’s performance, who afterwards admitted, “I try to defend the players but today was not good enough. We got what we deserved.”
Bournemouth however can count themselves extremely unlucky for the manner in which they lost 3-0 at Burnley.
The Cherries had two goals controversially ruled out by VAR, the second one because Adam Smith was judged to have handled the ball in his own area, meaning instead of Harry Wilson’s breakaway goal making it 1-1, the Clarets went 2-0 up thanks to Jay Rodriguez‘s converted penalty.
With West Ham facing a tough task away to Liverpool on Monday night it’s looking increasingly likely that the three clubs to be relegated will come from the teams currently in the bottom six, though Newcastle won’t be counting themselves safe just yet following their 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.
The current state of play at the bottom of the table and odds to back in the Relegation market is listed below:
14. Newcastle, 31pts – [7.8]
15. Brighton, 28pts – [9.0]
16. Bournemouth, 26pts – [1.96]
17. Aston Villa, 25pts – [1.7]
18. West Ham, 24pts – [2.2]
19. Watford, 24pts – [2.68]
20. Norwich, 18pts – [1.06]