Premiership spotlight on battle for third place

Man United boss ten Hag will know what’s in store for them when Wolves visit today. — AFP

IT’S that time of the season, with less than a handful of games to go. Almost all the fixtures one looks at are loaded with intrigue.

With Manchester City seemingly coasting to the title and Arsenal having to be content with second place, despite all the hopes their fans might still have of winning the thing, there’s a bit of debate about who will finish third and fourth in the standings.

Presently, Newcastle are third, and Man United are fourth. Both have played 34 games, and they are separated by two points.

The Magpies have 65 and the Red Devils have 63. That’s how close it is.

Liverpool, in fifth place, have 62 points, but they have played one more game. And while mathematically they have a chance to finish in the top four, with just three matches to play, they do look second best. But then again, their fans will have none of that just yet.

Newcastle’s visit to Leeds United features the two teams that lost to the top two last weekend – Manchester City and Arsenal, respectively.

This game is expected to be lit up by some serious fireworks. Both teams have much to play for, so blood will surely be spilled.

The home side are stuck in 19th place and staring relegation in the face. They will be desperate for the points, and that could well be the catalyst to spur them on and set back the Magpies’ bid for third place.

But Eddie Howe, who saw his team excel throughout the campaign until around the Carabao League Cup final when they went off the boil and lost, then bounced back, should be confident enough to inflict further harm on Leeds’ fading chances of survival.

Before last weekend’s defeat, Newcastle had won three in a row and, in the process, scored 13 goals. That’s the sort of form Howe will expect from his charges today, and he may well see them deliver.

Callum Wilson has enjoyed a bit of form of his own lately in front of goal and should be one to watch, along with Alexander Isak, who should operate down the left flank again.

Leeds will be pleased to win the game, regardless of how they might pull it off.

With a win today and a few of the other games’ results going their way, Leeds could find themselves in 16th place – that’s how tight the relegation battle is.

A good deal of this weekend’s spotlight will be on Old Trafford, where Man United host Wolves today, bidding to avoid a third straight defeat in 10 days.

What looked like a stress-free run-in to third place a few weeks ago has turned into an edgy finish to Man United’s season. And it is unlikely to be made any easier with the visit of an unpredictable Wolves outfit.

Julen Lopetegui’s side certainly has the potential to cause Man United problems in their own backyard. But the Wanderers are also prone to going about things so haphazardly that they can concede a hatful of goals in an afternoon.

Should Wolves measure up today, Man United will have to be at their best to collect maximum points and maintain their interest in third place.

David De Gea’s form will be of particular concern to Erik ten Hag. The goalkeeper has recently been responsible for some terrible errors that cost his side dearly.

And any further displays like that could well ruin their chances of Champions League football next season – something that manager ten Hag is acutely aware of.

But notwithstanding all this, Man United should get past Wolves today, maybe with two goals to show for it. Indeed, they might need to, with Newcastle playing in the early kick-off.

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!



Next In Community Sports

Wolves would prove difficult if they click
Hammers aim to thwart City
MetroSport Forecast Challenge
Newcastle face uphill battle to come good
Man United rest on results at the Emirates
Newcastle get early test at Etihad
London derby could prove feisty for Pochettino
All set for Chapman’s Challenge
Aison aims to win under-15 badminton title with new partner
New-look Chelsea at home to Reds

Others Also Read