Gerrard’s Liverpool farewell & Hull City on the brink – Opta’s Premier League preview.
GERRARD BOWS OUT
The Britannia Stadium plays host to yet another Steven Gerrard send-off, with the Liverpool captain playing his last (and 250th) Premier League away game before departing for America.
More than enough has already been written about Gerrard’s magnificent career, and anyway, there is another far more important angle to Sunday’s game against Stoke, with a Europa League spot still hanging in the balance.
Poisoned chalice for not, the competition is Liverpool’s only hope of European football next season.
A victory for the visitors against the Potters on Sunday will rubber-stamp their inclusion in the competition next season although a defeat could still see Brendan Rodgers’ men enjoy a Euro-adventure next term, depending on the results of fellow Euro-hopefuls Spurs and Southampton – and the outcome of the FA Cup final.
Recent clashes between these two sides have seen Liverpool come out on top, winning their last three games against Stoke, although prior to that, they had picked up just two Premier League wins in 10 against the Potters.
One player Liverpool will no doubt be wary of is Jonathan Walters, who has netted in each of his last three Premier League games against Brendan Rodgers’ side at the Britannia. But after Crystal Palace spoiled Gerrard’s party at Anfield last weekend, surely the visitors can give the Kop legend a winning send-off on Sunday?
||Angel Di Maria has assisted 10 goals this season. No Man Utd player has assisted more than that in a single season since Antonio Valencia in 2011-12 (13).|
||Steven Gerrard has assisted only one Premier League goal this season, his lowest total since recording zero in his debut campaign in 1998-99.|
||Diego Costa needs one more goal to become the fourth player to score 20 Premier League goals in a single season for Chelsea (+ Drogba twice, Hasselbaink twice & Lampard).|
||Sergio Aguero has scored 25 goals and assisted eight more in 32 Premier League appearances this season.|
||20 Frenchmen have scored for Newcastle in the history of the Premier League, the joint-most along with Arsenal.|
||Jamie Vardy has eight assists from open play this season, level with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.|
||Glenn Murray has scored seven times and assisted three in his last 11 league games for Crystal Palace.|
||Romelu Lukaku has scored at least 10 goals in each of the last three Premier League campaigns.|
||Since 2006, Arsenal have finished the Premier League in the following positions: 4th, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th and 4th.|
||Aston Villa have scored 31 league goals this season. Their lowest ever in a single league season is 36 in Division Two in 1969-70.|
TIGERS TEETERING ON THE BRINK
Sunday sees the curtain come down on a Premier League season arguably lacking the drama produced over the past few years.
With Chelsea picking up their fourth title at a canter and the Champions League spots already nailed down, the real drama will centre on the fortunes of the two sides still battling to stay in the division.
At the KC Stadium, Hull City boss Steve Bruce will play host to Manchester United, with the former United defender knowing an unlikely win is imperative if his side are to stay up.
But the omens are not good for Hull, having lost all seven previous Premier League encounters with United, shipping a hefty three goals per game on average.
Bruce, who won three Premier League titles with the Manchester giants, has failed to enjoy a single victory in his 20 top-tier clashes with his former club, managing four draws and 16 defeats.
One solitary crumb of comfort for the Tigers may come from the fact that Louis Van Gaal’s side have now gone eight league games without keeping a clean sheet. However, even if Hull do pull off a win on Sunday, they’ll still need Newcastle to either lose or draw at home to West Ham, but we all know far stranger things have happened on the final day of a Premier League season.
HARRY HOPING TO END SEASON IN STYLE
Finding themselves just a point behind Liverpool and a point ahead of Southampton, Tottenham’s recent form suggests a Europa League place may not be high on their list of priorities.
However, whether the north Londoners like it or not, a defeat away to Everton on Sunday may still see them embarking on another European adventure next season, again depending on results elsewhere.
In recent seasons, Spurs have been final day specialists, winning on the last day of the campaign in each of the last four years. However, at Goodison Park, Mauricio Pochettino’s men will face an Everton side who themselves have racked up six victories in their last seven final-day games, including the last four on home soil.
The Toffess have now gone seven games unbeaten at home to Tottenham in the Premier League, winning three and drawing four.
Sunday will also give Spurs’ player of the season, Harry Kane, a chance to sign off with a goal and end his four-game drought. Winning more points for this team than any other Premier League player this season (22), a goal on the last day of the season would top off what has been an outstanding breakout campaign for the England international.
MAGPIES HOPING FOR JOY
John Carver has endured a horrific time in charge of Newcastle United in 2015, but on Sunday, the Magpies’ temporary boss can at least oversee the club’s survival in the Premier League for another season.
If fellow strugglers Hull don’t manage to pull off an unexpected win against Manchester United, then Newcastle will be safe, no matter what transpires at St. James’ Park.
However, in order to make 100 per cent sure themselves of their own fate, a victory against West Ham is required. Considering Newcastle have picked up a paltry point from their last 10 games, a home win on Sunday is still a big ask for Carver’s under-performing side.
In recent seasons, the final day of Premier League hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Newcastle either, who have failed to win any of their last seven final-day fixtures.
On the plus side for the Tyne & Wear club, their record against West Ham in recent seasons is impressive, with just one defeat in the last 11 Premier League meetings with the east Londoners.
Ominously, the last time Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League, the final day games were also played on May 24, with Hull facing United and Sunderland playing Chelsea, two fixtures which will be played out again on Sunday. The wounded Toon army will be praying for a more favourable ending this time around.
EUROPA IN SAINTS’ SIGHTS
One of the three sides hoping for a European adventure next season are Southampton, with Ronald Koeman’s side currently seventh, two points behind Liverpool and one behind Tottenham.
A visit to the Etihad Stadium is hardly the easiest way to finish what has been a superb season for the Saints, but with Manchester City already assured of second place, the visitors may well fancy their chances of picking up at least a point.
As with both their Europa League rivals, even a defeat may still see Southampton secure a place in the competition next season, a result which would hardly come as a shock considering City have won each of their last three home Premier League games against Southampton.
Koeman’s charges have, however, found the back of the net on each of their last nine trips to City in the Premier League.
Although considering only one of Graziano Pelle’s Premier League goals have come on the road, the Italian’s team-mates may have to provide the requisite firepower. Whatever the outcome, expect goals in this clash, with Manuel Pellegrini’s potent side the only Premier League team yet to draw 0-0 this season.