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While we marvel at a thrilling end to the Premier League season on all fronts, the breaking news on Thursday portends to shape the league for the next four years.
Liverpool beat Villareal 2-0 in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal this week, they go to Newcastle in the early game on Saturday to try and leapfrog Manchester City in first place, even if only for a few hours. Oh, and yes they are in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea later in May. They’re going to need City to slip up and drop points somewhere to win the league, but they’re still on for a quadruple of trophies, something no one has achieved before.
On Thursday manager Jurgen Klopp extended his contract by two more years, along with his staff, keeping the current structure in place until 2026. This is significant because Klopp is an intense person who’s all-in on the task at hand, and has been clear he has plans outside of the sport that involved travel and other challenges. To have him commit to staying another four years is massive for the club.
Word from media in Liverpool is that in order to sign he got assurances over re-signing key players (Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are all out of contract after next season), and significant investment in new players coming in. There’s also the “Klopp” factor in recruiting players, that new signings are much more likely if players know they’ll have four more years to work with Klopp.
What’s intriguing to me is what this means for his foil, Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. He has been vocal about leaving after next season. Guardiola has talked often about managing a national team, will Luis Enrique move on from Spain after next winter’s World Cup and leave the Spain job open for Pep? Or will Klopp’s extension convince him to prolong his own stay in Manchester? And how much of that hinges upon them winning the Champions League, something he is desperate to do with City? They appear to be on a collision course with Klopp’s Liverpool for this year’s final in Paris after beating Real Madrid in a remarkable 4-3 win in the first leg of the semifinal this week. While the slender one-goal margin will give Madrid hope, the reality is City was a much better team and should have won by more. Odds are they’ll meet Liverpool in the final and the outcome could absolutely shape Guardiola’s and Manchester City’s future.
Other massive storylines from the matches this week, the relegation scrap could take a fascinating turn this week. Burnley, who sits two points above Everton in the last relegation spot, has played one more game than Everton. But with Burnley playing woeful Watford this weekend and Everton facing Chelsea, the prospect of Everton, who haven’t been relegated since 1951, being five points from safety come Monday is real.
The push for the final Champions League spot appears to have come down to a choice between bitter rivals Spurs and Arsenal. They do play each other before the season ends, but both have tough games this week with Spurs hosting Leicester and Arsenal going to a tough London Stadium for a derby with West Ham.
SATURDAY: Newcastle v. Liverpool; Aston Villa v. Norwich; Southampton v. Crystal Palace; Watford v. Burnley; Wolves v. Brighton; Leeds v. Manchester City.
SUNDAY: Everton v. Chelsea; Tottenham v. Leicester; West Ham v. Arsenal.
MONDAY: Manchester United v. Brentford.
The Italian Serie A race took a remarkable turn with the week with Internazionale squandering their game in hand with a 2-1 loss to 15th-place Bologna. That leaves city rival AC Milan in first with a two-point advantage and now having played the same amount of games. AC has the tougher matchup this weekend with seventh-place Fiorentina on tap while Inter travels to 12th-place Udinese.
Inter has Empoli, Cagliari and Sampdoria left after this weekend, hardly a murderers row. AC Milan have Verona, Atalanta and Sassuolo. Odds would have AC now taking the title based on those matchups.
SATURDAY: Cagliari v. Hellas Verona; Napoli v. Sassuolo; Sampdoria v. Genoa; Spezia v. Lazio.
SUNDAY: Juventus v. Venezia; Empoli v. Torino; AC Milan v. Fiorentina; Udinese v. Inter Milan; Roma v. Bologna.
MONDAY: Atalanta v. Salernitana.
THURSDAY: Salernitana v. Venezia.
The Spanish league has been devoid of drama all season. Real Madrid has essentially had the title wrapped up since Christmas, the Top Four race is set and has been for a while. The Cinderella stories of Sevilla and Real Betis dropped off sharply down the stretch.
The intrigue now is centred on the Champions League where Real Madrid heads home with a one-goal deficit to Manchester City while Villareal at two-goals down to Liverpool. Based on the pedigree and the balance of play in the first legs, it’s difficult to see either La Liga side breaking the English monopoly headed into the final, but with the form, Madrid’s Karim Benzema is in it would be less of a surprise if they can eke out a win at home and at the least send it to extra time.
A lot of the news around Spanish clubs will centre around transfers in the next week or two, will Kylian Mbappe still go to Madrid? If he doesn’t and stays at PSG, as Mauricio Pochettino hinted this week, who is the big-money target they’ll go after instead? And Barcelona, who still faces a cash crunch, will want to go even deeper in debt to lure some top-end talent to the Camp Nou now they’re entrenched in the Champions League yet again.
FRIDAY: Sevilla v. Cádiz.
SATURDAY: Alavés v. Villarreal; Real Madrid v. Espanyol; Valencia v. Levante; Athletic Bilbao v. Atlético Madrid.
SUNDAY: Elche v. Osasuna; Granada v. Celta Vigo; Rayo Vallecano v. Real Sociedad; Barcelona v. Mallorca.
MONDAY: Getafe v. Real Betis.