Back in a flash: Newcastle bounce back to the Premier League
Newcastle United secured the Championship’s second automatic promotion spot on Monday night, thrashing Preston North End 4-1 in a convincing display. The Magpies endured a harder than expected season in England’s second division, and despite their considerable transfer expenditures, failed to waltz to the title. Fans voiced their displeasure after last weekend’s loss to Ipswich threw their automatic promotion hopes into disarray, yet the relief of promotion has silenced many doubters.
Newcastle is a classic Premier League side, and it comes as no surprise that the Magpies went up at the first time of asking. Managed by Rafa Benitez, Newcastle are filled to the brim with Premier League experience and big names, and look to be strongly poised to make sure their newest stay in the top flight is a long one. Look out for familiar faces such as Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, and Ayoze Perez next year; and also expect Benitez to strengthen his side with new transfers in the summer.
Middlesbrough offer little resistance in plunge to the bottom
Middlesbrough’s freefall seems to know no bounds. The latest jolt to their survival hopes came against Bournemouth in a debilitating 4-0 loss. Boro were poor throughout the match at Dean Court, with the Cherries running riot thanks to bright work from the diminutive winger Ryan Fraser. The result leaves Boro in serious trouble; the northeast side has now not won a league match in over four months. Their last win was over fellow relegation candidates Swansea City back on December 17th; since then manager Aitor Karanka has been sacked and replaced with Steve Agnew, who has found little success.
Middlesbrough’s problems used to be scoring goals, as their defense was solid and well-regimented. Yet in recent weeks even their previously watertight backline has been breached, conceding four goals in crucial matches against Hull City and Bournemouth.
They face off against Sunderland in a battle of the league’s bottom two before playing Manchester City and Chelsea. At this point, a miracle would be needed to lift Boro out of the relegation places.
Race for the top four enters its final stage
Liverpool threw the Champions League race another curveball on Sunday when the Reds fell at home to Crystal Palace. Widely expected to ease into the top four due to their run-in featuring teams entirely outside the top-six, Liverpool have instead tripped up massively.
Liverpool currently reside in third place with 66 points, yet have played two more matches than both Manchester United and Manchester City. The Manchester clubs are only three and two points behind Liverpool; if they deal with their games in hand then Liverpool could easily find themselves on the outside looking in.
United will find themselves stretched for resources as they compete in both the Europa League and the Premier League, all while missing the services of talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to injury. City will devote all their efforts to the top-four chase after being bounced from the FA Cup by Arsenal.
Regardless of who finishes in the top four, it’s sure to be a thrilling finale to see who will grab the coveted Champions League positions.