Belfast Telegraph

5 things we learned from the Barclays Premier League this weekend

The battle to stay in the Barclays Premier League took another twist this weekend, as did leaders Leicester's bid to move a step closer to the title.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at five key talking points from the fixtures.


Leicester will take heart from the way they recovered from the controversial sending-off of striker Jamie Vardy by battling to a 2-2 draw at home against West Ham, secured with an injury-time penalty from Leonardo Ulloa. Sunday's match had plenty of flashpoints, notably England striker Vardy being shown a second yellow card early in the second half for diving when he went down under a challenge from Angelo Ogbonna. While the Foxes showed great spirit to recover, albeit with a somewhat soft spot-kick awarded by under-fire referee Jon Moss, the seeds of doubt could just be creeping in - especially if Tottenham cut the gap to five points with victory at Stoke on Monday night. Vardy will be banned for the home match against Swansea next weekend, when more dropped points might cause a few more concerns for Claudio Ranieri's squad, who nevertheless remain within touching distance of the title.


Following a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United, for the first time in 29 years, Villa fans must now face up to the fact their club is no longer a member of England's elite next season. The writing had been on the wall for months and the next steps at the famous old West Midlands club will be key if they are to avoid going the same way as the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds and Nottingham Forest. First thing on the agenda is finding a new manager for life in the Sky Bet Championship - which will be no easy ride, no matter what the transfer budget or CV of the incoming coach. A clear-out of the dead wood might as well be a good place to start and if Villa get things right first time, then there is no reason why they should not soon be back at the likes of Old Trafford rather than Rotherham.


Sunderland's 3-0 win at Norwich and Newcastle finally getting things right under Rafael Benitez by beating Swansea by the same scoreline at home has blown the fight to stay in the top flight wide open again. With games running out fast to secure the points needed to beat the drop, it is now all about results, no matter how they come. The 17th-placed Canaries' mini-revival is over after successive defeats, while Sunderland now have safety in their own hands given they have played a match less, as have Newcastle. That said, given the unpredictability of the Premier League, anything could happen over the run-in, which will leave fans of all three clubs with some anxious times ahead before the points are finally tallied up on May 15.


Marcus Rashford continues to go from strength to strength after being handed a chance in the first team by United boss Louis van Gaal. The 18-year-old striker, whose goal helped put the Red Devils into the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley with a 2-1 win at West Ham on Wednesday night, produced another composed display as he got on the scoresheet against Villa. With Dutch versatile defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah another stand-out performer in the cup tie at Upton Park and not forgetting Anthony Martial is just 20, then who knows, another 'Class of '92' could not be that far away. Whether or not, of course, Van Gaal is there to bring them all through over time remains to be seen.


Leicester could have been 10 points clear of second-placed Tottenham, but now Spurs have the chance to cut that deficit down to just five. The answer to the biggest question of the weekend's fixtures will come at the Britannia Stadium on Monday night. Playing last could be an advantage, Spurs know what they need to do, but it could also impact the other way on Mauricio Pochettino's men, adding an extra bit of pressure when looking to make the most of Leicester's slip, and of course, all but secure bragging rights over fading north London rivals Arsenal - who now face a scrap to make sure they are in the top four again after a lacklustre 1-1 home draw with Crystal Palace.

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