Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s season finale:
(1) On Wednesday, Manchester United finally escaped fifth place — moving up to third with a 1-1 draw against West Ham. While it won’t go down as one of the club’s finer performances in 2019/20, that result puts the Reds in control of their Champions League destiny with one match left to go. A win or a draw at the King Power Stadium means that Manchester United return to Europe’s big table. A loss, though, could be a ticket to the Europa League.
(2) Unfortunately, Leicester City have had an entire week off after Sunday’s loss to Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester United, on the other hand, labored through ninety tough minutes in mid-week. We all remember the FA Cup semifinal, with Chelsea enjoying a decided fitness advantage over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s weary Reds. Let’s hope that Sunday is no repeat performance.
Days of rest before games:— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) July 23, 2020
Crystal Palace: 2 days
Chelsea: 2 days
West Ham: 2 days
Leicester: 3 days
Grueling schedule pic.twitter.com/hjDitQUHlj
(3) The week off has also given Leicester plenty of time to stew over that 3-0 loss at Spurs. Despite holding lots of possession, Brendan Rodgers’s side struggled to break through a resolute Spurs outfit set up to deprive Jamie Vardy of space. And it worked perfectly. The Foxes huffed and puffed, but with no end result. This was the latest disappointment in a miserable run-in for the club, who teeter on the verge of throwing away Champions League qualification after just two wins from their last eight Premier League matches.
(4) Even with the added rest, Leicester will not be at full strength this weekend. James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Christian Fuchs, and Ricardo Pereira will all miss the finale with injuries, while center back Caglar Soyuncu remains suspended. That’s a lot of talent stuck on the sidelines for a must-win game.
(5) With Chilwell out, Rodgers will likely turn to 19-year-old Luke Thomas at left-back. In two previous appearances this month, Thomas has been up and down — impressing against Sheffield United before committing several key mistakes at Spurs. It won’t get any easier for the teenager with Mason Greenwood and company up next.
19 - Luke Thomas (19y 36d) is the youngest English player to assist a goal on his @premierleague debut since Marcus Rashford for Manchester United in February 2016 (18y 120d), and the 15th English teenager to do so overall. Dreamland. pic.twitter.com/waOuk9lq2Q— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 16, 2020
(6) Manchester United’s left-back situation is similarly unsettled. Brandon Williams has been filling in for the injured Luke Shaw — and remains super-confident of a win this weekend.
We’ve got to go there now with full confidence that we’ll win because we’re the biggest club in the world. We need to be playing where this club needs to be playing, which is the Champions League.
We’ve managed to get to where we are now and we’re in the position that we need to defend, so we’re going there with full confidence that we’re going to play Champions League football. We’re going there to win.
(7) Leicester forward Jamie Vardy leads the Premier League with 23 goals scored. If he can hold off Danny Ings, the 33-year-old would become the English top-flight’s oldest Golden Boot winner in more than seventy years. Age hasn’t diminished Vardy much, as he still uses his speed to feast on whatever space unsuspecting defenses leave behind the backline. While Manchester United’s defense has been a strong point this season, they have stumbled of late with six goals conceded in the last four matches.
(8) Bruno Fernandes has had himself quite a season:
Bruno Fernandes is still Sporting Lisbon's top goalscorer this season with 8 goals and 7 assists.— Red Devil Bible (@RedDevilBible) July 24, 2020
He's also Manchester United's top goal scorer with 9 goals and 8 assists since joining in January. pic.twitter.com/YGvkC9E486
(9) After the humbling loss at Spurs, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers looked ahead to the season finale:
We’ve got a game next week where we’ve got a shot at being in the Champions League. Our target was to arrive in the top six, which at the beginning of the season, would have been a great achievement for us. However, it’s a 38 game season and we have an opportunity to still be in there. If we don’t do it, of course there will be a bit of disappointment, but there will also be gratification in terms of what the players have done and what they’ve given.
(10) Chelsea Update: Frank Lampard’s side enter the final weekend in fourth place, needing a win against Wolves (or some help) to qualify for the Champions League. That will be no easy feat, as Wolves will be plenty motivated — they need a win themselves to get in the Europa League.
(11) Some closing words from the Manchester United boss:
We’ve had semifinals and now it’s a “final” and we’ve got to raise ourselves for that one. We pinpointed this one at Leicester. If we have a chance to go there, we can be delighted we’ve caught up with the points and caught up with the goal difference and given ourselves a fantastic opportunity. We know we’re playing a difficult team — they are very, very dangerous in different aspects of the game and different things tactically. We’ll be ready.