5 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend
Issues are coming to a head at both ends of the table.
The Premier League title race appears to be going to the wire, with neither Liverpool nor Manchester City giving any quarter in their pursuit of glory.
At the other end of the table, Cardiff and Brighton – and to a lesser extent Southampton – are engaged in a desperate battle for survival after managing to collect just a point between them this weekend.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at what we learned from the latest round of fixtures.
Over to you, City
In case Manchester City did not realise it, Liverpool are not going to go away. The Reds emerged from their trip to Cardiff, who are fighting for their top-flight lives, with three points safely banked courtesy of strikes from Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner to throw the spotlight back on to Pep Guardiola’s side as they prepare for a must-win derby trip to Manchester United on Wednesday evening.
Phil your boots
City’s eye-watering spending power has transformed the club to the point where the quest for an unprecedented quadruple was only derailed by a remarkable battling Champions League quarter-final display by Tottenham. But in the wake of that heart-breaking European exit, it was to one of their own that manager Guardiola turned, and academy graduate Phil Foden did not let him down, confirming that he can rub shoulders with the big-money signings by scoring the only goal in a revenge mission against Spurs which sent the club back to the top of the table on Saturday, if only briefly.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been reminded how quickly football can turn after making a Jekyll and Hyde start to his reign as Manchester United boss. Having lost only one of his first 17 games in charge, a run concluded by a famous 3-1 Champions League victory at Paris St Germain which helped to earn him the job on a permanent basis, he has lost six of the last eight, with Sunday’s horrific 4-0 drubbing at Everton confirming that his honeymoon period is well and truly over.
The Benitez conundrum
Newcastle’s 3-1 win over Southampton, coupled with Cardiff’s 2-0 defeat by Liverpool ensured that the Magpies will spend a third successive season in the top flight, but whether manager Rafael Benitez leads them into it or not remains a moot point. Contract talks are ongoing, but seem deadlocked, with managing director Lee Charnley having indicated that the training-ground improvements and transfer autonomy the Spaniard wants may not be forthcoming, and the reaction of the Toon Army to Saturday evening’s win and its implications left little doubt as to where their affections lie.
Vardy revitalised, VAR overdue
England striker Jamie Vardy had become something of a peripheral figure at Leicester as Claude Puel’s ill-fated tenure drew to a close, but has now scored seven in as many games under replacement Brendan Rodgers. His instinctive strike at West Ham on Saturday helped to secure a 2-2 draw, although it would have counted for little had referee Lee Probert been able to review the offside decision which cost Hammers’ substitute Lucas Perez a second goal of the game before Harvey Barnes’ last-gasp equaliser.